Making way for new class changes in Legion

One of the hottest topics of any new expansion is the changing of class rotations. One of the most common things in recent expansions has been the removal of old abilities and making way for new class rotations. People are often concerned over the loss of spells they once enjoyed (crying the tears of “pruning). However, our memories tend to be pretty short and after the expansion launches with all the changes, we often don’t miss the spells we lost. For example, what abilities got removed in each of the previous expansions? To remember this, I have to look it up in old posts because I don’t much miss those spells a year or 10 years later. The newest Draenor expansion removed several spells, including Symbosis, Nature’s Grasp, Nourish and other spells. In most cases, we forget that abilities often got removed even in the first several expansions. Legion also comes with an “out with the old, in with the new” policy in the design decisions. With that in mind, I want to talk about these changes more objectively and talk about some of the stated design goals.

Celestalon_Tweet1_2015

Design goal #1: Abilities should fit the fantasy theme for each class and specialization.

A major change for the Legion expansion was the removal of any tool that didn’t fit the design theme. In some cases, specializations got entire new design themes, such as Outlaw Rogues when “combat” was too bland of a theme to work with. Blizzard did a series of previews for each class talking about the particular theme and core abilities for each specialization. For example, a core theme of balance druids is “leveraging the sacred powers of the sun, moon, and stars”. This meant that for balance druids, over time we have lost most of the spells that leveraged nature – in favor of space-themed abilities.

This also came with the removal of Eclipse and replacement with a “build and spend” resource system, as well as renaming wrath (solar wrath) and starfire (lunar strike) to better fit the thematic elements. Things that didn’t fit with the thematic elements were removed or redesigned, with the goal of “easy to learn, hard to master”. To calrify, as Eclipse was “hard to learn, easy to master”, time spent watching the interface bar move back and forth wasn’t particularly good for balance druids. Once you understood how the bar worked, the rotation was easy with little room for mastery above the basics.

The “hard to master” design often comes in the form of additional spells you pick up via talents. This means there are also more unique talents for each spec, though the classes do still share some common talents (thus, some of the original shared talents are now spec-specific). So, while your spell book might seem small when you first log into your character, you can often pick up many new abilities via talents (thus, a 5 button rotation can easily become an 11 button rotation via talents and artifact weapons, and even those 5 buttons may have much more complex interactions).

Restoration’s core healing buttons remain largely unchanged (with the exception of ‘merging’ swiftmend and Nature’s Swiftness), with the primary changes to restoration being in the form of changes to utility. Feral and Guardian also don’t have major reductions in their core ability sets overall, but still see substantial changes overall.

Design goal #2: Utility should feel unique for each class and specialization

One of Blizzard’s new design goals is to reduce some of the redundancy in spells across the classes, particularly with regards to utility. A major concern has been with how the ability creep has turned into the dreaded “homogenization” feel. Over time, everyone has needed X ability because everyone else had it. In utility, if you didn’t bring equal amounts compared to everyone else, you worried about losing your spots to others who brought more. So, the solution over time to this was often giving everyone more and more utility until everyone had a bunch of mostly redundant things. This is changing in Legion, and is why the watered down utility of having access to ability sets for all 4 specs wasn’t going to work for druids. That means balance and restoration druids also lost utility spells (e.g., stampeding roar).

New Affinity System:   Druids lost a set of baseline abilities common to other specializations. For example, balance druids no longer get a full rotational set of feral, guardian, and restoration abilities baseline. These had become substantially watered down over time as it was difficult to make druids the master of 4 roles at a time, and so you became the master of 1 with some extra buttons you couldn’t really utilize to their full extent. However, as we discussed above with regards to added complexity via talents, the new Affinity talents allow you to choose one off-spec role where you will be at least half-decent.

  • Feral Affinty: Gives you a movement speed bonus and a set of damage abilities – Shred, rip, ferocious bite, and swipe. This would give guardians and resto druids the opportunity to do substantial single-target damage and some AOE damage (via swipe) when they aren’t being called on to perform their main role.
  • Guardian Affinity: Gives you an armor bonus and a set of tanking abilities – Growl (taunt), mangle and thrash (damage), plus iron fur and frenzied regen (survivability). This should be enough to off-tank for short periods of time in a situation where an encounter or situation might call for it.
  • Restoration Affinity: Gives you passive healing (4% HP to you or a nearby ally every 5 sec), plus a set of healing abilities – Rejuv, regrowth, and swiftmend (you already get healing touch baseline). However, you don’t get access to an AOE heal, somewhat limiting your ability to off-heal raid situations, but allowing for saving yourself or a tank from death in some situations.
  • Balance Affinity: Increases your range by 5 yards and a set of ranged damage abilities – Moonkin form (on a 30 sec cooldown), solar wrath, lunar strike, Sunfire (you already get moonfire baseline), and starsurge. This allows you to do relatively decent single-target damage with a little bit of AOE splash damage (via multi-DOT and lunar strike). Note that the cooldown on moonkin form will make the feral affinity higher sustained damage and balance likely better for short bursts, depending on overall balancing.

Redesigning Druid Raid Utility: In this discussion, it’s important to talk about the primary baseline utility available in raids. Only feral and guardian bring stampeding roar. Instead, balance brings back Innervate (buffing mana of healers). Restoration brings a single-target mark of the wild buff that adds to the base stats of one player in your raid. The major concern of the utility changes is that restoration may not bring enough unique utility that helps the raid in day-saving ways. Being able to move your entire raid out of the fire quickly allows you to save the day more than a passive minor DPS boost to one of your raiders each encounter. Keep in mind that resto druids won’t often be tanking or doing significant DPS in raids, making the affinity relatively minor in terms of frequently used off-role utility (whereas the other specs may benefit from the affinity utility more for raiding).

Design goal #3: PVP abilities are now chosen in the PVP talent trees, instead of being baseline

One of the biggest loss of baseline buttons happens in the way of PVP abilities no longer being baseline. In some cases, they significantly reduced the number of crowd control and survivability buttons aimed at PVP effectiveness. This is felt in forms such as Cyclone no longer being baseline for all druids. Instead, cyclone is an optional PVP talent, with decisions still being made about which specs will or won’t have access to cyclone via PVP talents.  This is also a factor of why some of the druid utility was taken away – as the goal was to trim down survivability, crowd control, and movement abilities across all the classes. In the PVP talent tree, you will choose 6 talents that augment your primary role, including being able to re-acquire some abilities that are no longer baseline.

Conclusions

Every class is worried about the removal of abilities in Legion. However, at this point, many classes have buttons they don’t use very often, are redundant with buttons other specs have access to, don’t fit the core thematic design, and/or are PVP buttons better suited for the PVP talent tree. Thus, while there may be fewer baseline abilities, the total maximum set of buttons for every class is still on the order of 20 to 25. If you aren’t happy with around 20 buttons, then the problem is with the design of those buttons, rather than needing more buttons. I would anticipate many more changes between now and the launch of Legion. Thus, it is better to focus on discussing why druids need a specific button to be effective and fun, rather than worrying about the total number of buttons available. With alpha soon resuming (and other specs likely to open for testing soon), we’ll still have a lot of work to do. However, in giving feedback, keep in mind these three core design goals for how abilities and talents are designed for Legion. Saying you want more buttons just for the sake of having lots of buttons isn’t an effective feedback strategy. However, resto druids got back Cyclone as a PVP talent by showing that the spec needed strong crowd control options in terms of fulfilling the core playstyle that was still consistent with the design goals.

The most important design goal of Legion is to make sure that class specializations feel unique, effective, and fun. In many cases, I think removing some abilities to make room for new design goals might help the game overall move forward. Don’t let fear of change and fear of “pruning” impact our ability to give solid design feedback. It’s too soon in the development process to panic, as anything broken now allows time for it to be fixed. Things that are broken can only be fixed with giving good constructive and specific feedback about what Legion things aren’t working in the context of Legion’s goals. I for one welcome this “out with the old, in with the new” design style for the next expansion.

Posted in Beta Feedback, Druid - General, Feral Bear tanking, Feral DPS Cat, Legion, Moonkin Balance DPS, Player Versus Player, Restoration Healing Trees, Written By Lissanna


Alpha testing started for balance druids

I have been slow to post, as only the second alpha patch has dropped so far, with patches often coming rapidly with huge class changes every patch. Right now, balance is the only playable specialization for druids. In addition, there is much that is incomplete about balance druids including their artifact weapon traits. Many classes overall still have “awesome things coming soon”. However, druids so far are starting in really good shape.

First, our class hall artwork is absolutely incredible. I used to visit moonglade for fun sometimes and hang out. However, this new class hall is like “What would happen if we took moonglade and dialed it up to 11?” It definitely still has a night elf architectural feel, which makes sense given the history and lore of going to the place where malfurion learned to be a druid. This zone is not yet finished, with many orange flashing signs with “work in progress” posted around.  You spend the majority of your time outdoors in this pretty large zone, but there are already some hidden places where you can find an indoor bed to take a nap if you so desire.

Druid_class_hall

Second, the balance druid form artwork is in. The Tauren keep their horns. All other 3 races keep their antlers. In all cases, the coloring is the same as the original models. They have most of their animations in and complete, including retaining the same awesome dancing skills.

Druid_moonkin    moonkin2

In terms of the balance druid rotation and play style, the “build and spend” resource model works out really well. It still feels familiar to the old playstyle, without having to watch the Eclipse bar dictate what spells to use – potentially offering even more room for choices to make in how you play. There is still a lot of work to do for ensuring that balance is a fun and effective specialization. I’ll comment more on specific abilities after another build or two and things stabilize a tiny bit more. There are a few places that need tweaking, such as some of the artifact weapon bonuses. For example, there is a risk of generating astral power so quickly that you feel like you have to frantically mash buttons to keep up. In the current build, some of the artifact bonuses also run the risk of making talents feel redundant with the artifact (such as not needing a talent to get instant-cast nukes when you passively get instant-cast nukes from the weapon, or not needing astral power generated via talents when you get tons of it from an ability you get with the artifact weapon). However, the current weaknesses are easily addressed in terms of balancing out the values of the talents and artifact weapons to not compete with each other. The major problems now are relatively minor compared to the problems brought to us by Eclipse.

The good news is that if you hated Eclipse, the new moonkin playstyle may be fun to learn. In addition, if you did like the complexity of balance and Eclipse, there are still plenty of opportunities for complexity (and we still start out with more buttons to manage than most other classes do before talents).

When restoration is in, I’ll start hitting dungeons and see how that goes. We also don’t know at what point we can pick up secondary artifact weapons for dual-spec leveling.

Posted in Beta Feedback, Legion, Moonkin Balance DPS, Written By Lissanna
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More moonkin and sealion shapeshift pictures

MMO-champion and others have started data-mining the Legion beta. This brings us lots of new pictures. It takes them a long time to go over every inch of a new game client, so they just started posting pictures of the new shapeshift forms. Below are a few of the views of the Tauren form. The colorings are still being worked out. Click on the links to see the full MMO-champion pictures (I cut a couple views from each so they weren’t so tiny on the blog).

Horde forms (without all the correct coloring)

Adriacraft also was able to capture some animated shots! (Horde horned moonkin models)

The Nigh Elf forms are also available (without all the correct coloring):

Animated Allianace-antlered moonkin forms By Adriacraft:

Sea Lion Form Updated

Posted in Beta Feedback, Legion, Moonkin Balance DPS, Uncategorized, Written By Lissanna
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Moonkin in legion: Easy to learn, hard to master

The official class previews were posted Wednesday. For druids, balance is likely undergoing the most dramatic changes. Thus, I’ll focus on changes to the core moonkin spells today. Eclipse is gone, and if you need to remember why Eclipse needed to be removed, I suggest reading this post by Chase at Blizzardwatch.

Core abilities:

  • Damage over Time (DOTs): We are keeping moonfire  and sunfire  which will each be a separate DOT that can be placed on the target. As such, the core rotation will require keeping high up-time on both DOTs. Sunfire has the ‘spread to nearby target’ mechanic, and moonfire is single-target only.
  • Astral power generatorsLunar Strike replaces starfire, and has an AOE cleave component. Wrath is now called Solar Wrath but otherwise mostly stays the same single-target.
  • AOE astral power spenderStarfall consumes astral power instead of having charges. It now has a large targeting circle you place on the ground, as the ‘targets the druid’ mechanic was somewhat difficult in execution. While this is a 15 yard radius targeting circle, we can extend the radius of this circle via talents. Targets in the circle take more DOT damage and the talented version would also let you cast while moving from within the circle.
  • Single-target astral power spender: Starsurge is instant-cast, consumes astral power, and provides 1 charge of Solar Power (buffs solar wrath) and 1 charge of lunar power (buffs lunar strike). This empowerment will require us to spend these charges
  • Utility: We know moonkin will get innervate (give a healer or arcane mage some mana in the fight). You will also likely want to pick up an affinity talent that maximizes survivability (guardian’s passive damage reduction) or utility (resto healing abilities and passive).

Changing Resources and mastery:

  • Eclipse was removed and we no longer watch the balance ‘bar’ on our interface.
  • Astral Power: Balance druids now have a ‘build and spend’ mechanic via a new Astral power resource. Our “builder” spells will generate astral power (e.g., solar wrath and lunar strike generate astral power). Our “spender” spells can be cast and use that astral power (starsurge and starfall), providing large benefits, such as Empowerments to our abilities.
  • New Mastery: Starlight Increases the damage of Starfall and Starsurge, and the effect of the Empowerments that they grant by an additional 30% (with Mastery from typical gear). This means that starlight doesn’t impact our core rotation in the way Eclipse does. It instead buffs spells you should be using anyway.

Analysis of overall changes: 

The base rotation will be to keep up DOTs, use spells to generate astral power, and then spend astral power on your starfall/starsurge spells. The empowerment will mean you follow starsurge with one lunar strike and one solar wrath (then use the appropriate spell depending on need for cleave to keep earning power). Rinse and repeat! Keep in mind that there will be other abilities that aren’t included in this list, as well as talents that will have big impacts. It is easier to manipulate a resource like astral power than to manipulate the ‘charges’ mechanic that we used for starsurge and starfall in Draenor.

For AOE, we won’t have Hurricane anymore. Instead, the plan is for DOT spam, starfall, and lunar strike to be our AOE toolkit. It’s possible we could get other AOE from talents, but we haven’t seen the talents yet.

Overall, this new starting point is going to be beneficial for balance druids. This will provide an opportunity for the true “easy to learn, hard to master” spec. For a long time, balance has been the opposite: Eclipse was hard to learn (unless you had good addons), and easy to master once you got the core concept. Getting rid of the clunky Eclipse mechanic is good for balance druids. It frees balance druids from a system that never truly worked – there was never really a reason to swap between two sets of spells that were basically identical in all but name. While the initial rotation sounds super simple, there is plenty of room for skill to be rewarded by the time everything else has been revealed for druids. The talents will provide flexibility in terms of being able to choose talents that increase the complexity of the spec. You can choose all passive talents as a new druid OR choose more active talents for more complexity in advanced high-end raiding.

I will be highly active during beta testing and plan on raiding moonkin in Legion if all goes well. At this point, I think our rotation holds onto the core mechanics of being about weaving DOTs and direct damage.

Posted in Blizzcon, Legion, Moonkin Balance DPS, Written By Lissanna
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