Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Moonkin 2t10/2t9 vs 4t9

I have been debating recently on whether to switch to 2t10 earlier or later - everyone should be doing it once they can do 4t10, but 4t9 vs 2t9/2t10 is a pretty open question.

This is mostly just to help me organize my thoughts on the matter.
Increases the damage done by your Starfire and Wrath spells by 4%.
The major advantage of this bonus is that it is reliable - it has no RNG component at all.  It also doesn't have any major disadvantages, but it is important to note that the talent is additive and not multiplicative.  For example, during Solar Eclipse 4t9 is actually only a 2.66% increase to Wrath damage.  This makes it relatively weaker then you might expect at first glance.

Math generally shows 4t9 to be worth slightly less than 3% dps.

When you gain Clearcasting from your Omen of Clarity talent, you deal 15% additional Nature and Arcane damage for 6 sec.
This bonus has a couple of interesting factors to it:
  • If it works like other similar buffs, then the benefit will last the entire duration of a DoT.  A moonfire, IS or Starfall that you cast during a 2t10 proc should tick for 15% more the entire duration.
  • You can gain Omen of Clarity automatically by casting Gift of the Wild.  This means that if you need to, you can use 2t10 to gain on-demand burst dps.  Since balance druids generally lack this, it might be valuable to explore (for example, imagine if you were having trouble on Marrowgar hard mode killing bone spikes - it would be very possible to hit gotw just before the cast finishes and get that little bit of extra burst for ~5 seconds).  Keep in mind that for overall sustained dps, casting gotw is going to be a loss unless you can do it while you're moving.  This isn't something you add to your rotation every six seconds - but that doesn't mean you should ignore it either, and hitting it right before the fight starts (as another form of pre-potting) may also be valuable.
  • AOE - Omen of Clarity procs a lot when you're chaining Hurricanes.  2t10 should be a significant boost in damage on any fight with a significant AOE component.
 2t10 does have a few significant disadvantages:
  • RNG, RNG, RNG.  Omen of Clarity is a relatively low proc chance (6%), and on average you will see around 2.5 procs per minute on a single-target fight.  But there can be a lot of variance in that number - the odds of going an entire minute with zero procs is roughly 8%, which is high enough to occur relatively often.  Other fights might yield you 4-5 procs per minute, it's all up to the dice gods.
  • Six-second duration - spell damage is calculated when the spell cast finishes, not when it starts.  To get the 2t10 bonus you have to finish the spell cast within the buff duration, which means that calculating uptime on a six second duration is inaccurate - you will generally only get 5 to 5.5 seconds of useful buff time out of each proc.
 Overall, 2t10 looks to be worth slightly more than 3% dps, and significantly more on AOE fights.

Other Factors
  • Set itemization - separate from the set bonuses themselves.  2t10 allows me to drop two items with spirit.  Even with the marginalization of haste past the soft cap, it is still very much superior to spirit.
  • Item lvl - I still have mostly 245 t9.  Going to t10 gets me 251/264 items, which is a very nice stat gain.
  • Experience.  Using 2t10 optimally means paying attention to the procs.  I have 1.5 seconds left on a 2t10 proc during Lunar Eclipse - do I cast a starfire (which will not benefit) or do I put up Insect Swarm, which will?  Since I will definitely have this set bonus at some point, the earlier I start watching it and incorporating it into my decision tree the better off I will be later in hard modes, when paying attention to dps will take a second seat to fight execution.
The experience factor is what decided it for me - if I can pick up 2t10 next week and start getting used to it now, then that's all the better for eventual hard modes..  Waiting for 4t10 will push that learning curve back another three weeks at least, picking it up now means I can start playing with tracking, addons and GotW right away.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Boss Tuning and Hard Modes

When ToC first came out - and to a lesser extent now that ICC is out - there were a lot of complaints that the bosses were "too easy".  And a lot of these posts seem to imply that easy normal mode = easy hard mode.

The error with this is that it assumes mechanics are the primary driver behind interesting boss fights.  This is true to some extent - a straight tank-and-spank with nothing else happening would be very boring.  But the key factor is that mechanics are only interesting if you can't ignore them.
  • Marrowgar is easy now because, well, it doesn't matter if the whirlwind hits you or if you leave a dps in a spike for 15 seconds.  
  • Deathwhisper is boring because you can easily kill the add waves, dps the boss down and never hit enrage - and the Death N Decay and add damage isn't that impressive.  
  • Gunship has no real dps and barely any healing requirements - if you are undergeared you can just have your tank go over less often.
  • Saurfang is the most difficult of the first four - it has an actual dps requirement, although not a very high one.  With proper positioning we saw 3 marks in 25-man this week, and zero in 10-man.
The common factor between all of these is very simple:  Dps and healing requirements are too low for mechanics to be important.

To say it another way, what makes boss fights interesting is dps and healing requirements.  Not by themselves, but because they force you to pay attention to the weird stuff bosses do.  If Marrowgar has a tight enrage and his whirlwind will two-shot you, then suddenly it's an awesome fight.  Did the mechanics change?  No - but they became more important.

The same is true for practically every normal vs hard mode, and it's why I expect ICC Hard Modes to be awesome.  Every fight so far looks like it could be a blast on heroic, and Blizzard hasn't disappointed in the past.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Prepping for Icecrown Citadel

I recently re-evaluated my character choices in light of the 3.3 patch (probable release date of 12/08/2009, or next week), and just wanted to go over the changes I made.

No changes - I already use 4t9 and with the 2t8 nerf I see no reason to change.  I did modify my gems slightly, going back to Potent over Reckless for good yellow sockets.  I lost 120 crit rating when I picked up a second Reign of the Unliving, and with ICC as the primary focus I don't see a need to value haste over crit any longer.

After some deliberation I decided to go into Icecrown with my Anub spec.

This took some thought.  I originally planned to go with something almost identical to the above, but without Typhoon and picking up the last point in Imp IS - that's a pretty optimized single-target build, but also with strong AOE.  However, reading strategies it looks like a lot of guilds find unglyphed Typhoon to be useful on Saurfang - there are adds that can't be tanked and need to be CCed, and Typhoon is a good choice because of the knockback + daze.

You could also easily do a build with 3/3 Imp IS and 1/2 Gale Winds, but it appears that at least two of the first four fights will have a non-trivial AOE component (Gunship/Saurfang), so I opted to go 2/2 GW.  One point in Imp IS is a relatively trivial single-target loss, while one point in Gale Winds is a very significant AOE loss.

So Starfall and Reign of the Unliving walk into a bar.
RotU: "I'm a trinket that procs from critical strikes, but only every two seconds.
Starfall: "What a coincidence - I can crit on a one-second period which exactly matches up with you.  Maybe we can work something out?"

Silliness aside, the Starfall Glyph (30 second cooldown reduction, NOT the focus glyph) and the Insect Swarm Glyph have always been relatively close in value.  My feeling is that with the neat little synergy between Reign and Starfall will make the glyph a bit more valuable, especially since I now use two of them.

If however you don't have Reign there are a few other reasons I changed to Starfall:
  1. Each one of the first four fights - and many of the later ones - have adds.  Glyphing Starfall vs IS is a close call in a single-target situation, but as raids get complicated single-target situations tend to go away.  Expect a ton of adds in ICC, which will increase the dps benefit of Starfall.
  2. Glyphed IS is important to keep up - you don't want 100% uptime but you should work it into practically every part of your rotation.  Unglyphed IS is much less critical - you pretty much want it up during Solar Eclipse... and that's it.  This frees up Insect Swarm as an, "oh, I have to move" spell - moving from fire?  Hit IS. Icecrown will most likely have a lot of movement, so having IS available more often will help mitigate some of that otherwise lost dps time.
  3. 3% miss - I don't want to get into an avoidance vs EH argument, but suffice to say that 3% miss - while not being critical or even particularly important - is still, well, 3% flat avoidance.  Your tanks can't depend on it but it might prevent a death.
Keep in mind that if you Glyph Starfall you need to keep fairly close track of it and make sure you use it as often as possible - and as fight mechanics dictate.  I use Power Auras for this (and for Treants) to let me keep track of them easily and see when they'll be available, but other addons work as well.

Obviously any of the above might change in the future, but my goal is just to go into normal modes with something solid for all of the fights - for hard modes I anticipate optimizing on a per-fight basis, of course.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Latest 3.3 PTR - Moonkin Buff.

Both Eclipse effects have been increased to 40% from 30%.  Screenshot is in 4t9:

This is a pretty large buff.  If we use the 2t8 estimate of 6% dps (pre-nerf), then this should be on the order of 4% dps - just making up for the WiseEclipse nerf (if you weren't aware of it before, the Eclipse change in 3.3 is to nerf WiseEclipse).

The downside is that this buff comes in the form of increasing our reliance on Eclipse.  One of the big reasons moonkins have RNG issues is because Eclipse is such a large percentage of our dps, and this buff (while welcome) will only increase that issue.

This is concerning because the trend in an expansion is that later bosses = increased movement.  Now this is a generalization - obviously it's not true for all bosses.  But if you look at most fights, as mechanics get more interesting you also have to move around more, and this change is going to make movement a really big killer for moonkins.