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.

Garrisons are a military base, not a house

Wildstar and World of Warcraft are both introducing “housing” systems into their content. Warcraft just released a post about how their garrisons will work. I wanted to take a minute to talk about how Warcraft isn’t actually introducing player “housing” into the game. Instead, the garrison feature is a military base. While I am more likely to stick with WOW due to my long-term investment, and I have issues with other aspects of Wildstar that make it less appealing to me, the one thing I do like is the Wildstar housing system. In that respect, Wildstar delivers a more traditional take on building your own aesthetic house. Blizzard, on the other hand, is allowing us to have some amount of choice in building our military base, but that choice is still largely limited compared to Wildstar’s full customization of your own plot of land.

Wildstar housing:

  • Starting from low levels (around level 14), you can build and customize your own house. You gain materials and items for your house from the early leveling experience thru max level.
  • If you want to build a house in a tree, you can have your very own treehouse.
  • There is a wide variety of enhancements for the decor, so that your house won’t likely look like someone else’s house. There are, however, general themes in terms of being related to various races, for example. So, houses will likely share some features with other houses, especially early in the content release.
  • Want to build your own bar? Sure, not a problem!
  • You can even customize the color of the sky if you really want. The important part is that your own house will feel unique because it’s unlikely that anyone else will have built the exact same thing. In this respect, you build a cosmetic house that serves the purpose of driving intrinsic motivation related to finding new treasures you can use to personalize your home.
  • You want guild housing? Well, you might actually get to decorate a house with your guild members, and hang your raid boss’ heads in a communal space.

World of Warcraft Garrisons

  • Starting at level 90, building a garrison is integrated into the leveling experience from 90 to 100.
  • In the various zones, you will be given options to choose from specific pre-fab buildings. There are three levels of each building, with the stables (for example), getting bigger and fancier as you level them up.
  • You can’t currently customize the look of any of the buildings. If you have a stables at level 3, it looks just like everyone else’s stables at level 3.
  • As you level, you will be prompted to pick 1 of 2 buildings that impacts your leveling experience in a particular zone (though recipes are available later on to pick up those buildings you skipped, if you change your mind!). This might be neat the second time you play an alt in the zones, since your building choices will impact your questing experiences – perhaps your alt will choose all the opposite buildings in every zone.
  • While completing the quests that give you access to building types is incredibly important for the leveling process if you want access to garrisons, you can also potentially skip this process and buy blueprints instead, meaning that on your 4th alt, you can still avoid the feeling of “chores”.
  • A focus of your garrison is on the people that inhabit your base, not on actually building and customizing the base. You will send your garrisons on missions, and you will basically serve as the commander to this army that you accumulate as you strengthen your base. They may make your world feel more populated, but your garrison won’t be your own personal retreat to hide from the world. While your base will feel populated, they won’t be populated with your guild members, since there is no guild housing.
  • These followers and rewards include content related to the extrinsic rewards of gaining access to crafting materials and bonuses that enhance your solo questing experiences. While garrisons may be fun, the point is to get things you need for completing other content. So, your crafting needs may shape some of the decisions you make related to your building plots.
  • A benefit of the garrisons is that there will likely be a great deal of content tied to this system, allowing for more solo play related to trying to defeat the Iron Horde.
  • Your final garrison can have up to 10 of the 21 buildings, meaning that most people will have roughly half of the available options once their garrison is complete. Thus, while you and your friend may have different choices you made along the way, the general aesthetics across a couple dozen garrisons (of the same faction) may have a really similar look and feel. You get to customize your garrison, but only to a certain point.

So, in the end, World of Warcraft isn’t really introducing housing, in the traditional sense. Instead, they are introducing military bases that allow you to have some form of customization. The garrison system is going to probably be a fun system; but if you want to build a house, you may have to look elsewhere. Maybe I can still keep my Lord of the Rings Online house for a while longer to have my own sense of home.

My hope is that they may eventually introduce more hooks for aesthetic customization in the World of Warcraft garrisons. Until then, I’ll enjoy building my military base, and wishing I could change the color of the wallpaper.

 

Balance druid guides for beginner moonkin

Blizzard released a new set of “crash courses” for learning various classes. Each crash course covers one damage dealing spec for each class. For the druid class, they chose moonkin. Thus, the video teaches you the basics of the Eclipse single-target rotation for people who have newly reached level 90.

The video does a great job of showing how Eclipse and our primary damage spells work. The video doesn’t, however, cover more of the advanced topics, such as what to do when there is more than one target. It also doesn’t cover talents and glyphs. These more advanced techniques are outside the scope of what these short videos were designed to cover. Thus, for more advanced druid techniques, Cyous has some videos, that while potentially slightly out of date may help fill in some of the advanced techniques. Cyous also took over the moonkin sticky guide on the official druid forums. You can also visit Hamlet’s EJ forum post. Icy Veins also has a moonkin guide.

Since Blizzard only did one starter guide per class, we don’t have a starter video for feral, resto, or guardian druids. There are, however, plenty of community resources to help teach you how to druid!

What we DO get with the WOD expansion

It feels like we know more about what we won’t have with WOD than what we do have. Looking at the expansion with a more positive light may be important for helping us understand why the expansion is taking so long, and what we’re waiting for. I’ll go with three categories: Things confirmed that we will get (e.g., new content), and things Blizzard plans to give us that may lead to improvements in quality of life (e.g., system changes that may have downstream positive impacts).

Confirmed for WOD release:

  • We will gain 10 new levels, boosting us to 100. This is 5 more levels than the previous expansion.
  • We will have access to new leveling zones, filled with many new quests, story, progression, and rewards. This will be filled with amazing artwork and music.
  • We will have access to new max-level content in zones.
  • We will have new character models for some of the races ready at release.
  • We will have a new garrison feature, that allows you to build and customize a plot of land. This will allow for tasks relevant to crafting, as well as quests where we send followers out to do stuff for us for rewards.
  • A new PVP playground called Ashran which PVP players will enjoy.
  • Other PVP system improvements, such as skirmishes and spectator modes.
  • More PVE content: new raids, new dungeons and scenarios – filled with new threats to overcome.

Likely improvements in WOD that will benefit players:

  • An improved PVP ability system with regards to pacing of combat. A greater reliance on sustained damage over burst, and an emphasis for smarter crowd control use over stacking tons of crowd control ends up being an overall positive improvement to PVP play.
  • More intuitive gearing for PVE and PVP. Changes to the gearing system will reduce the amount of time you have to spend tinkering with an item after you get it, freeing your ability from having to rely on tools like Ask Mr Robot to tell you how to fix your gear every time you get an upgrade.
  • More intuitive spell toolsets overall, and improvements to hopefully make the classes more fun to play. If you have a button, that button likely has a meaningful purpose for you as a player – and you will hopefully not have an overwhelming number of buttons where one button is only marginally better than 4 other buttons that do the exact same thing.
  • Additional new character models for races beyond what they can finish for release.
  • An improved raid structure and lockout system that will make it easier to play with your friends or strangers. For example, the new flexible size content (e.g., if one of your guild members doesn’t show up, you can still raid) and only one hardcore raid size (allowing for better guild recruitment, new guild formation, and comparing your team to other teams) may have good consequences for guilds. The new looking for group system will allow for forming normal-mode raids with strangers.
  • We may potentially get improvements to the long-distance travel system as a consequence of other travel changes.

Overall, there is still a lot of positive things coming with the expansion, which may offset the problems that people are concerned about. If beta actually starts soon and we get a chance to experience these things for ourselves, it may actually turn out that the expansion holds more good than bad. I just wish Blizzard did a better job of showing us what we DO get, and making everyone feel excited about it.