Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Moonkin's Ode to the Notorious L. K.

This is a story bout the glory
Final boss of an expansion
Been waiting for this moment
Since Naxx was re-imagined

Learned hard modes with Sarth,
Void zones toasting raiders like bacon
Ulduar was next with Yogg-Saron insanity
Alone in the Dark without titan amnesty

Next a tourney, not on a horsey
Engaging enemies from the Northrend hood
Climax with an old friend, Anub
He's a spider-beetle-dude

Now finally we've fought through a three-headed skeleton,
KT's lady, a boat full of horde, the great cleaver
Double Grobb and the professor, the plague asylum
Then the vampiric quartet, three princes and their madam

Eventually the final wing, frosty halls
Cold in our veins as we wipe to val'kyrs
Rescue a maiden from a dragon (or a dragon who is a maiden?)
And then we think we're back in Naxx with a skeleton dragon and ice-tomb-geddon

Now we're finally at the top, Arthas' crib
Tirion at our back, the light fantastic
But he's a PvP noob who doesn't bind his human racial
So he gets to sit in that block like he's going glacial

But no problem, we've got this
Me and 24 of my friends
We've got practice and experience
We'll take this down like it's old clearance

Now it's time for me to break out my stuff
Show the world what I've got and smash meters
Casting spells, channeling nature, hitting buttons like crazy
The Lich King is going down today, see

I've got Moonfire – I bet you didn't even know Elune was on fire
I've got Insect Swarm, cockroaches from hell
Fire from the photosphere, direct from a star
And elemental anger, incarnation of Wrath on my bar

I bring down stars on Artha's head,
I block out the sun and the moon over and over again
But it's not enough, time to break out the big guns
So I summon my trees and start the forest fun

*rustling leaves* *rustling leaves* *rustling leaves*
Yeah Ash, kick the King in his ass!
*rustling leaves* *rustling leaves* *rustling leaves*
Mighty Oak, beat em up go for broke
*rustling leaves* *rustling leaves* *rustling leaves*
Go go Elm, smashin Nerzhul's special helm

We dodge shadow traps
And hope the tanks stay alive
As we smash and burn and cast
And heal or bandage fast fast fast

Finally we transition and head to the edge
The Lich King is summoning a vortex of bad
It's time for vile – er, wicked – er, raging spirits to play
We kill ice orbs and get ready to head back into the fray

Now it's time to head back to the middle
Moving fast before we're dropped in the void
It's time for fun, the valk and defile dance
Over and over while we stack warlocks and hope for chance

Now Deja Vu as we're back to the outside
Arthas was nice and rebuilt our playground
We burn and heal and dodge like there's no tomorrow
Preparing for the finals to the lich king's sorrow

Here's phase three, defile's a joke
But Arthas has a new trick and introduces us to his sword
Tries to harvest our souls but we disagree
So we end up inside running around like tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee

Now we dodge the Raging – no, Wicked Spirits who appear
Spectral explosions and ectoplasmic C4
Then we're back outside, time to run around
Because the final brother spirit Vile shows up to fight a round

Things are getting crazy
Berserk is coming up
Cooldowns and hero as we fight and try to win
That fifteen minute limit is an unreasonable sin

Now Arthas goes crazy and tanks are going down
Everyone's running like a chicken without a head
We're spread out and burning, he's at 12 percent and falling
We put up DoTs and try to live long enough to win our calling

Then Arthas starts to cast and we all groan
As he kills us with one spell and ends our hopes
He tells us all this was his plan from the start
Apparently undead chicken moon warriors are where it's at if you're smart

But we've forgotten Tirion in his ice block
The paladin extraordinaire
He finally realizes how many arena points he's going to lose
So he hits that racial and then Ashbringer's on-use

Now Arthas is spinning like a Lichy Pinata
And we're whacking away with our fists and our magic
His health drops to zero and he croaks like a crow
So we loot him for goodies – and of course, double crossbow

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cataclysm Alpha - Eclipse

Buried in the data mining of mmo-champion is this little gem:
Increases the damage done by your spells by a percentage. 
Grants a percentage of spell haste. 
The damage done by your Wrath is increased when you reach 100 Solar Power, and the damage done by your Starfire is increased when you reach 100 Lunar Power. Effect will last for 15 sec. Mastery increases the damage done by your Wrath and Starfire when you gain Eclipse.
I keep on writing rants about this so I'm just going to not post much since I can't do it civilly.  I just hope that this has nothing to do with the final version of Eclipse, and is a placeholder while they finish the mechanics.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cataclysm Alpha - Initial Thoughts

In case you aren't aware of it, we have our first look at more cataclysm moonkin changes here.

While it's hardly comprehensive there's also a lot of information there.  Some interesting things:
  1. Solar Beam - this was discussed in a blue post but it's always nice to get more details.  Looks like a nice PvP boost.
  2. Nature's Splendor - the calculator doesn't show it for the first rank but this is apparently now a 3-rank talent that adds 3 seconds (33%/66%/100% chance of applying).  With the new way haste is going to work with dots I'm guessing they can just add three seconds to something like Insect Swarm and not have it be an issue.
  3. Insect Swarm - on that note, it's gone.  No longer a talent.  Since it's referenced elsewhere the implication is it's now baseline (restos rejoice?).
  4. Starsurge - this looks like the "Nature's Torrent" that was referenced before here, from what I can tell.  With the new Lunar Guidance this should become a significant way to swing the Eclipse meter.
  5. Balance of Power - this is where we get our base 4% hit and the the spirit->hit conversion.  No real surprises.
  6. Moonkin Form and Improved Moonkin Form - I am really not sure what to think of this change.  It looks like Moonkin Form literally only provides armor now, while the improved version gives 6% raid crit - a combined change that's confusing on several levels.  First, why increase the buff to 6%?  The implication I had for cata was that powerful buffs are being reduced (and they are, see Earth and Moon!) not increased.  Second, where is the "selfish" benefit for a moonkin taking Improved Moonkin Form?  While it's kind of interesting as an optional talent (especially since then you could theoretically dps in caster form...), I don't really want to either 1) respec every time the elemental shaman can't make the raid, or 2) spend a GCD to shift into moonkin when the elemental shaman dies, and the rest of the time waste three talent points.  This seems like a promising change but one that still needs some polishing.
  7. Wrath of Cenarius - I find this very odd.  The talent reads (at rank 1):  "While moving, the direct damage of your Moonfire spell is increased by 5% and it's mana cost is reduced by 10% for 3 seconds.  This effect can stack up to 3 times and lasts 3 seconds, but is refreshed as long as you are in movement."  So depending on how this scales at a max of three ranks you could be looking at moonfire spam in PvP that costs 90% less and does 45% more damage.  Along with some other changes here I'm going to predict the Moonfire Glyph is going away and the direct damage of Moonfire will be much more significant.
  8. Eclipse - now a three-point talent that increases the amount of Solar/Lunary energy your spells create.  Nothing exciting, but probably still a core talent.
  9. Earth and Moon - really interesting change here, apparently all "Curse of Elements" type effects are going to be 8% instead of 13%.  This fits and was expected - it's a similar change to how sunder is being nerfed.
  10. Fungal Growth - 70% AOE snare when your treants die or wild mushroom pops.  Interesting PvP implications and has some potential PvE uses.
  11. Naturalist was moved down - Naturalist as a tier 3 talent is an easy way to force ferals into speccing "deeper" into restoration (most ferals already use that many points, but this effectively forces you to pick up master shapeshifter), which makes sense - they need somewhere to go with the extra five talent points.  Since Moonkins are in the same boat, expect some sort of change either in restoration or tier 1 feral to give us some additional spec options.
There are a lot of talents I expect to see change (Nature's Grace, Owlkin Frenzy, Furor, etc) that currently haven't, but this is a very early build - lots of classes have less changes then this.  It'll be interesting to see where they go from here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Update: Moonkin DPS Talents, Glyphs and Set Bonuses

Given the 3.3.3 changes I went ahead and spent some time updating my chart of our talents and set bonuses.  I added a couple of new things (Glyph of Focus and a combined Glyph of Moonfire + Starfire), and I also changed it to a percentage basis instead of a raw dps number as I feel that's more valuable information.

The original post is here - I updated that image to match this one.  The methodology was identical, and they are ordered by their average % dps increase.

The one big change is Brambles - according to Simcraft (and I ran this several times) it's behind Genesis now on a per-point basis.  I'd guess that's due to stat scaling since I used a significantly better geared set to get these calculations, but it's hard to be 100% sure.  Either way the overall difference is negligible at 1-2 dps difference per point.

Another factor to consider is that the above ignores any benefit to a tank from Thorns - if you are considering rdps then an extra ~30 damage to the boss from Thorns every few seconds will outweigh the difference with Genesis by quite a bit.  So if you are the Thorns-buffer then Brambles should pull ahead again.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Heroic Moonkin: Blood and Frost

Finally dealt with some RL stuff so I'll be trying to get back to this - sorry about the huge lack of recent posts.

I decided to combine Blood and Frost because of how short the posts were looking to be.  For the first four bosses, please go here.

A note on specs:
I consider this to be the "core" moonkin talents.  There are two floater points that can pretty much go anywhere, depending on the fight - normally for single target they end up in Brambles for me.  So when I talk about "56/0/13 + 2" I'm saying use this spec.

Blood Prince Council
Spec: Standard (56/0/13 + 2)
Glyphs: Moonfire/Starfire/Starfall

Just like normal mode, this fight is effectively three different phases that are repeated in a pseudo-random (shuffle) manner.  Unlike normal mode however we have a new mechanic: Shadow Prison.
Binds an enemy. Movement by a bound enemy inflicts 350 initial Shadow damage, increasing by 500 for each second of movement. Remaining motionless for 10 sec will reset the stack.
Think of this as Bizzaro Hodir - instead of a mechanic that penalizes you for staying still, it penalizes you for movement.  The stacks aren't incredibly bad on their own but can kill you when combined with other mechanics, so it should change your strategy - try to move all at once instead of the normal strategy of shifting slowly when you cast instant spells.

This fight is relatively easy but has some tricky areas.  If you are assigned to dps Kinetic Bombs then keep in mind you can hit anything in a 180 degree arc in front of you - it can be very helpful to face at a right-angle to the boss instead of directly on him, as this will allow you to dps a target almost directly behind you without actually turning around.  Secondly, feel free to use Starfall on cooldown - it will pad the meters but it won't steal the Shadow Orbs the Keleseth tank needs.

Blood-Queen Lana'thelSpec: Standard (56/0/13 + 2)
Glyphs: Moonfire/Starfire/Starfall

Note: Owlkin Frenzy no longer has a higher than normal proc rate on this fight, so don't bother speccing it - it's now officially useless for PvE raiding.  Just use a normal single-target dps spec.

Mechanically BQL is not different at all from the normal version - she just has more health and her abilities hit harder.  The major difference is that it will be more important to optimize your movement (as the enrage is much tighter).  I really try to emphasize a single-dot rotation on this fight (alternating MF and IS, that is) so I always have something to hit if I need to move, and I use GotW liberally for the 2t10 procs.  Other then that the only major factors of your dps are going to be:
1) Intelligent use of cooldowns - Starfall as soon as it's up, FoN at the start and then with Hero
2) Positioning - the closer you are to the middle the less dps you'll lose from getting Pact
3) Bite Order - this is the biggest factor.

2 and 3 may not be under your control but make sure you talk to your raid leader, they are probably the biggest factors for your dps on this fight.

Valithria Dreamwalker
Spec: AOE (55/0/13 + 2/2 Gale Winds + 1/1 Typhoon).  I take the extra point from Improved Insect Swarm - it's relatively weak on target-swapping fights anyway.
Glyphs: Moonfire/Starfire/Starfall

Another fight with no significant mechanic changes from the normal version.  It is more tightly tuned so it will be important to maximize dps, however.  Typhoon and AOE are for suppressors since they are the second most important add to kill - Typhoon to slow and proc NG, and Hurricane because you should usually be able to hit 3-4 of them at a time, plus occasionally other mobs.  You shouldn't have time to DoT up the most important mob (Blazing Skeletons) anyway, so maximizing AOE dps at the expense of Imp IS is a pretty easy trade.  You also get an incidental boost to killing Rot Worms which can really wreck a tank.

I like to drop FoN on Abominations and Starfall is very good for killing suppressors fast.  Also make sure you position intelligently - I try to be near (but not inside) the dragon, so I can reach anything quickly but I can still see void zones and other things to move out of.

SindragosaSpec: Standard (56/0/13 + 2)
Glyphs: Moonfire/Starfire/Starfall

Finally a fight with an actual mechanic change!  Backlash is different:
Deals Arcane damage to all allies within 20 yards for each magical spell cast while afflicted with Unchained Magic.
...oh.  So now instead of getting to dps a little with Unchained Magic, instead we can't dps at all or we'll kill the raid.  Thanks, Blizzard.

Overall this fight is very similar to the normal version, except you can't dps as much.  There are some things you can do though:
1) Use Travel Form for Blistering Cold.  It's outdoors and a 40% movement boost will let you start dpsing faster.  You can also use this to help position correctly for Ice Tombs or to move faster when you need to clear stacks in P3.  Note: If you do this be careful with your Starfall use, shifting to travel will cancel the spell.  Also make sure you don't hit Starfall when Sindragosa is about to go into the air.
2) In P1 you can run out of the raid and at least dps a little even when you have Unchained.  6-7 stacks are safe, just make sure you aren't going to get pulled in and are 20 yards away from everyone.  In P3 you shouldn't really dps at all.

3) Use a feral staff and melee dps during P3 when you have Unchained Magic.  Just make sure you swap weapons back when it's over and you still clear stacks.

Maybe that last one isn't too great, but other then that... well, it's Sindragosa.  It's hard to optimize dps on a fight where the best strategy involves you twiddling your thumbs doing almost nothing half of the time.  Be clean with movement when you can dps and use cooldowns intelligently, but there's just not much you can do here.

Plague Wing
Coming Soon!  This will hopefully actually be an interesting post, since all three plague fights actually require a significant strategy change.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Heroic Moonkin: Storming The Citadel

Now that I've seen Hard Modes for a few weeks now I've been meaning to make a series of posts talking about them.  This isn't designed to be a strategy guide, although I will discuss parts of my guild's strategy for bosses here - this is more talking about issues you might see with the fights, and the best choices to optimize your role in them.

A note on specs:
I consider this to be the "core" moonkin talents.  There are two floater points that can pretty much go anywhere, depending on the fight - normally for single target they end up in Brambles for me.  So when I talk about "56/0/13 + 2" I'm saying use this spec.

Now on to the bosses:

Spec: Standard (56/0/13 + 2)
Glyphs: Moonfire/Starfire/(Starfall or IS)

Marrowgar is one of the most annoying fights in ICC as a moonkin in my experience.  The fight combines two negative factors:
1) High movement.  More importantly, unpredictable movement.  In Phase 1 you will have to move relatively randomly when Coldflame is going to hit you - in Phase 2 (Bonestorm) you have to move for either the boss moving toward you or if a Bone Spike is out of range.  Depending on strategy you may also need to move away from other ranged or healers.
2) Target-switching.  Killing Bone Spikes is a high priority, but the health is low enough that if the full raid switches you will rarely get more then one spell cast per target.

The key then is to negate the above two factors as much as possible, by minimizing movement and optimizing bone spike dps.  The first is very standard (and something that has to be done on nearly every fight).  During P1, use your dots to move without losing as much dps - for example if you're in a Lunar Eclipse, cast IS.  If IS is up, cast Gift of the Wild for a 2t10 proc.  Stand as far away from the boss as you reasonably can, this will give you time to react to Coldflame in the best manner (and also means that Coldflame is more likely to miss you).  During Bonestorm it's much more difficult to do this.  Use GotW liberally, and it's likely worth it to use DoTs on Bone Spikes when they first spawn if you need to move.  Keep in mind that being anywhere near the boss during this phase will likely kill you - the whirlwind effect does a lot of damage if you are close.

Optimizing Bone Spike dps is a bit different.  What I use is mouseover macros - for example, something like this for Wrath:
/cast [@mouseover,nohelp,nodead][] Wrath

This macro will cast on your mouseover target if they are hostile or neutral, and alive, otherwise on your regular target.  These require some precision with your mouse movement and you have to be careful that you target the correct thing.  But they allow you to simply mouseover a Bone Spike and keep spamming your rotation - you can target it afterward for more reliable dps, but for the initial switch mouseover macros can be very key. You can also switch targets using something like tabbing, mouse targetting or a /tar macro, but I find those to be less efficient.

A second optimization is position and facing.  As a caster it's important to note that you can hit anything that is within your forward 180 degree arc, not simply what's directly in front of you.  Therefore on something like Marrowgar I almost never look directly at the boss - instead, I try to stand on the outside edge and I face the rough center of the raid.  Then no matter where a Bone Spike spawns it's in front of me and I can hit it without changing the direction I'm facing.

Lady Deathwhisper
Spec: AOE (56/0/13 + 2/2 Gale Winds).  Consider glyphed Typhoon from a point of Improved Insect Swarm for additional Phase1 dps if your guild is struggling with killing adds.
Glyphs: Moonfire/Starfire/Starfall
Note: My guild uses a strategy where we stand behind Lady Deathwhisper and AOE the adds down.  If your guild doesn't use this strategy you should concentrate more on single-target dps in your spec.

The first thing I want to talk about is Mind Controls.  Heroic DW mind controls three targets at a time, and having some sort of CC on them is fairly critical - 35k starfires will one shot almost anyone, as an example.  Cyclone is pretty ideal for this - it lasts almost the same time as the MC, it works on anyone and it also keeps them from taking incidental damage.  Target switching to Cyclone is going to impact your dps negatively however, so again I go with mouseover macros (focus is included for more controlled CC on something like Faction Champs):
/cast [@mouseover,nohelp,nodead][@focus,nohelp,nodead][] Cyclone
This will let you Cyclone those MCed targets without switching off Deathwhisper.

Now, onto the fight:
Lady DW has two phases.  Phase 1 is the dps race - it's not exceptionally difficult, but good dps is important to help with a clean P1->P2 transition.  Therefore I spec to increase AOE dps.  Typhoon is somewhat iffy because Starfall will haste your Hurricanes most of the time, therefore I don't normally include it here.  More importantly you may be threat capped quite often in Phase 2, so increasing you single-target dps won't help much.

Phase 2 is the harder part of the fight and is simply about staying alive.  Ghost explosions won't one-shot anyone, but it will leave them low enough that any other source of damage will kill them.  They also have a 20-yard range, and combined with Lady DWs frost AOE this can easily kill multiple people.  So:
1) If you are slowed (due to the frost AOE), then keep in mind you can shift out of Moonkin Form to break it.  If a ghost spawns near you this can easily save your life (and other people too).
2) Ghosts will only explode if they reach their actual target - they can run over other people without causing any issue.  If you have some sort of aggro alert (I use Power Auras) then that will tell you whether or not a ghost is targeting you.  You will still need to move when they first spawn so you have time to get away, but the difference between 1-2 seconds of movement and 4-5 is very significant.
3) Turn off unimportant UI elements like health bars for Phase 2 - there is a very distinctive lightning-like effect when ghosts are spawning that you can use as an early warning system, but it can be hard to see if adds or other player are close, or if you have something like DBM bars obscuring it.
4) Watch your threat - I always stay below 100% of the current tank.  Keep in mind if you are mind controlled it will reset your threat.  If you are threat capped on Lady Deathwhisper then consider helping out on the side adds that spawn.

Have fun.

Deathbringer Saurfang
Spec: AOE (56/0/13 + 1 + Typhoon) - if you don't need Typhoon for Blood Beasts then skip the talent.
Glyphs: Moonfire/Starfire/Starfall

This fight is very straightforward as a dps - you probably won't have to move at all.  The most complicated parts are the target switch to burn blood beasts and using Typhoon (if necessary).

Typhoon is very simple - use it when your guild wants you to.  We use a warlock AOE stun (3 seconds) followed by Typhoon to knockback and daze adds, and that's it - everything dies before that wears off.  You'll probably be assigned to dps an add or a side, so just switch to one - the mouseover macros I talked about with Marrowgar work here, but since the adds always spawn in the same spot clicking or tabbing can work fine too.

Keep in mind that for Blood Beasts, the main stars on Starfall are not considered AOE and will do full damage - using it will substantially help burning them down.

That's it for the start of Icecrown Citadel - the next post will be covering the blood wing.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Challenge: Moonkin Bandaids before 4.0

I think it's pretty clear at this point that moonkins won't be seeing any major revamps before the big cataclysm patch.  We've seen some bandaids, and that's most likely all we'll see.

A somewhat interesting question, then, is what are the good PvE bandaids Blizzard could throw our way to help a little bit with scaling?  Some important criteria:
1) Minimal impact on restoration (both in PvE and PvP), and on moonkin PvP.  This rules out most Nature's Grace changes and most outside cooldowns we could add.
2) No massive changes to moonkin PvE - so no Eclipse redesign (yeah, I know).

Within those boundaries, however, there are some changes we could see that would help clean up moonkins a bit.  Some examples:
  1. Celestial Focus - changing the haste on this talent to either raw spell damage (or damage and healing) would be a positive change.  This both raises our soft haste cap slightly and provides a small dps boost.  There is an impact on restoration, but it is overall a very small one given that not every restoration druid specs into the talent and that the benefit is relatively minor.
  2. Improved Insect Swarm - this one is easy.  Reverse the bonuses.  3% crit to Wrath helps proc that elusive Lunar Eclipse, and 3% damage to Starfire is just as good as 3% damage to Wrath.  More importantly, however, this lowers the soft crit cap slightly which helps out endgame moonkins.
  3. Nature's Splendor - increasing the duration this adds to Moonfire and Insect Swarm helps moonkin pve dps, but does not impact moonkin PvP or restoration to any great extent.
  4. Insect Swarm and Moonfire - allow some combination of these spells scaling with haste or crit.  Doesn't have to be both with each, but this is a very simple way to let moonkins scale better with the relative stats.  This improves damage without improving burst.
That's a short list, I'm sure there are more.  Everything on their is minor, and well I'm sure it would impact PvP I can't see it causing any massive issues that Blizzard would have to worry about.

What - if any - useful "bandaids" would you like to see moonkins get before 4.0?  Again: nothing major, hopefully nothing hard to implement, but changes that would help moonkins with scaling and give us some help in PvE.

Respond here, respond on your blog (but let me know if you do!), send me an email, or even send up smoke signals - I'd like to hear what other people think about this.  Bandaids are hardly an ideal solution, but they are a practical one.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Guest Post: Nibelung

I was talking about Nibelung with the elemental shaman in my guild, Bergg (formerly Darkness, who you may have heard of), and he directed me to an excellent post of his on that covers his objections to the weapon.

While this is from the point of view of an elemental shaman, most of his points are valid for any class and should be considered.  They also cover most of the reasons I don't want to use Nibelung for my gear set.

So with his permission:
Let me first say that "fun" procs don't work in high end raiding.

Marrowgar.  When your valkyr stands in the fire, it will die, regardless of the fact that it can heal itself.  When your valkyr stands in the whirlwind, it will die.  When you turn to DPS Bone Spikes, your valkyr won't help you.  You--the best burst DPS class in the game--could have done more damage to that Bone Spike if you had put on a one-hander and shield, but instead, your valkyr is attacking a boss that doesn't have a notable enrage timer.

Deathwhisper.  You're attacking a magic vulnerable add, and so is your valkyr.  The magic vulnerable add dies.  Your valkyr proceeds to cast spells on the nearby magic immune add.  It is now doing less than 1 DPS.  If you get particularly unlucky, your valkyr may attack and kill a friend who gets mind controlled.

Saurfang.  You are THE best kite class/spec in the game for this fight.  It is highly unlikely that a valkyr will spawn during your kite, as you aren't casting as often.  Prior to Blood Beasts, any valkyr procs you get will continue to attack Saurfang instead of the Blood Beasts.  The valkyrs are doing 0 DPS to the most important part of the fight.

Rotface's slime spray will kill your valkyr.

Festergut's plague ability will kill your valkyr.

On Putricide, your valkyr will die to slime, bombs, and mutated oozes.  Your valkyr will not switch to kill the green or orange slimes, the most important part of the fight.  Should any of your valkyr survive, they will constantly be adversely affected by extreme travel times.

On Princes, your valkyr may get stuck on a Kinetic Orb, or an inactive Prince.

On Blood Queen, your valkyr will die to the fire and the bloodbolts.

On Dreamwalker, your valkyr will be adversely affected by movement, and they will not target the newest dangerous enemies.  Instead of having the DPS to kill Blazing Skeletons before they wipe your raid, you will be contributing by having a valkyr, which is attacking a harmless target.  --Actually, now that I think about it, the valkyr won't be attacking a harmless target.  The valkyr will be dead because of the Blazing Skeleton AOE.

On Sindragosa, the valkyr is a double-edged blade.  It can attack when you can't--when you have Unchained Magic, or when you are behind an ice block.  It can also prematurely destroy the ice block that your raid is standing behind, and wipe your raid, and waste a limited attempt.  In the event that it doesn't wipe you, it will die to the frost AOE and the stacking buffet and the cleave and the tail whip and the frost breath and frost bombs and ice block explosions.

Lich King requires even greater and smarter add switching and DPSing than Dreamwalker.  In Phase 1, your valkyr will quickly revert to attacking the closest thing in proximity--probably a harmless ghoul, which was going to be cleaved down anyway.  That will increase your Recount DPS, but in reality, it is 0 DPS; it is ineffective raid DPS, on a fight where you WILL die to the enrage.  (I did last night; 5% from a kill.)  In Phase 3, it is unlikely that you will get a valkyr spawn while DPSing the Val'kyr Shadowguard--so when your friend gets dragged off of the edge of the platform and dies, you can let them know that you decided to give some of your DPS to your valkyr, which was attacking the Lich King instead--or, in a more real scenario, dying to Defile.  In Phase 5, your valkyr will not switch to Vile Spirits because of proximity, despite the fact that they will kill anyone they hit--including the valkyr--and need to be killed immediately.  You also need the kite the Vile Spirits, so much like Saurfang, it is unlikely that the valkyrs will appear at all.  In Phase 5 and 6, you will be phased and killed.  Both phasing and death destroys any valkyrs you had up at the time.  Now you will have to wait for them to proc again to resume your DPS' full potential.

Oh, and--yes, like haste--they don't affect totems.  The difference between haste and valkyrs is that haste helps you win the game all the time, and valkyrs sometimes wipe your raid.

Take your pick.

I also thought of some other incredibly dangerous scenarios:

- Your valkyr may attack frost orbs on Heroic Anub'arak, wiping your raid.
- Your valkyr may attack a CC'd target on Faction Champions, wiping your raid.
- Your valkyr may attack dark orbs on Princes, wiping your raid.
- Your valkyr may continue attacking Putricide even after your raid leader calls for a stop on DPS.  This can wipe your raid.
- Your valkyr may continue attacking the Lich King even after your raid leader calls for a stop on DPS.  This can wipe your raid.
- You can't be on star or constellation duty on Algalon with Nibelung, because the valkyrs may prematurely kill your stars or constellations, wiping the raid.
- Your valkyr may kill a Mimiron piece out of order, wiping your raid.
- Your valkyr may kill a Freya elemental out of order, wiping your raid.

And as far as I know, valkyrs are unable to take advantage of gimmick buffs, which WOTLK is full of.  (source)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Moonkins in WOTLK

A few days ago I replaced my final piece of spirit gear by picking up the Belt of Petrified Ivy.  While this was a pretty nice upgrade over my previous Cord of Pale Thorns, it also depressed me a little bit.  With that upgrade I am sitting at almost double the soft haste cap and am significantly over the soft crit cap, and I just can't see myself scaling with the other dps in my guild who don't have those soft caps to worry about.

What's interesting to me is looking back on how we got to this point.  Blizzard doesn't hate us (people who claim this confuse me, to be honest), and I literally cannot think of a single nerf to moonkin dps in wotlk.  So how, with fairly positive attention, did we end up near the bottom of the dps charts with two soft caps to juggle?  The answer, I think, is to look at something comparable to moonkin dps - a national disaster.  In this case, Three Mile Island.

I'm not going to go over that here, but suffice to say that the disaster wasn't caused by someone accidentally hitting the big red button marked, "Cause A Nuclear Meltdown".  Disasters rarely are - instead they are caused by multiple small decisions/events that compound upon each other, and before you know it you're knee-deep in radioactive waste (or haste, as the case may be).

So what decisions started the current moonkin chain?  Let's go back to TBC...
1) Eclipse
I blame Destruction Warlocks.  Not their fault, but two tiers of shadowbolt spam really made Blizzard want everyone to have interesting rotations.  For Balance Druids (who ignored Wrath almost entirely at that point) this meant coming up with a talent or spell change that would force us to use both at some point during the fight.  Blizzard sat down at the design table and after much thought came up with the core idea of Eclipse - one spell (Starfire or Wrath) would proc an effect to buff the other spell.

Now, eclipse is a great idea with poor execution.  The original version was a dps loss, so it was buffed repeatedly before WotLK until it was a pretty ridiculous amount of moonkin dps.

2) Nature's Grace Changed To 20% Haste
Nature's Grace was always a very strong dps talent.  Changing it from a flat .5 second reduction to 20% haste was a welcome change (letting Wrath scale a bit better with haste), and the 3-second duration was also a nice dps buff.

The problem with this change was it didn't go far enough.  20% haste is certainly better then .5 seconds for Wrath, but it still leaves us soft haste capping at only 400 - a number easily reachable in even entry-level raid gear.  More importantly the 3-second duration means that a single Wrath crit now caps out three Wraths, aggravating the issue significantly.

3) Separation Of Lunar/Solar Cooldowns.
This was an interesting change because for the most part it was unasked for - the only real conclusion I can make is that Blizzard felt we were falling behind from internal data, and they decided to correct it.

This is a pretty positive change in two respects - it smoothed out Moonkin dps and it was a straight dps increase.  Instead of having 15 seconds of burst followed by 20-25 seconds of "normal" dps, we got to rotate between burst phases.  The downside to this change is it forced the soft haste cap (400) onto every moonkin.  Before you could use a Lunar rotation and cast Wrath relatively rarely, which meant haste didn't effectively soft cap at any reachable point.  Separating the cooldowns means Wrath will always be cast nearly as much as starfire, which makes the soft cap more important.

4) Trial of the Crusader
There is nothing directly wrong with this instance, but it did almost single-handedly cause a pretty big issue: item level inflation.

TotC was "unplanned" - that is, it's a filler instance so people had something to do before Icecrown.  However, in order for people to feel it was valuable the items had to be worth it, which meant introducing a new tier.  This was the first inflating step.  The second was that in order to further differentiate ToC items from Ulduar HM ones, Blizzard added another half tier.  I'm not sure why they did this, but it has pretty significant implications because the same pattern was kept in ICC.

The end result is that current Icecrown Gear is two full tiers ahead of where we (and Blizzard) thought we'd be.  That is a massive amount of stats, and as a class that doesn't necessarily scale as well with them that's a problem.

5) Buffing Eclipse
When Blizzard decided to fix WiseEclipse (which was both fair and expected) they decided to buff moonkin dps at the same time in order to prevent a nerf.  While this was nice, I'm going to look the gift horse in the mouth and state that they did it in almost exactly the wrong way - by buffing Eclipse.   With this change the first point in Eclipse - that is, when I go from 0/3 to 1/3 - is worth over 1,000 dps, almost as much as 3/3 Nature's Grace or 5/5 Starlight Wrath.

Now, look back at all of these changes - nothing in there looks like a nerf.  They are all either buffs or (in the case of a new instance) something that should still increase our damage.  Nothing is drastic or massive, either - they are all relatively small changes.

The commulative effect, however, was to place in inordinate amount of dps into a single talent, and one that has significant issues.  Especially since as raids progress, the one constant that always increases on average is movement - you move more in Icecrown then you did in Ulduar, and you moved more in Ulduar then Naxx.

Secondly, item inflation and repeated buffs to Eclipse left us hitting a soft crit cap in Icecrown, an issue that's only important because we are two tiers ahead of where we should be.

Third, the legacy talent Nature's Grace has enforced a soft haste cap practically from Naxx, and one that we can't avoid because of other changes.

Hopefully Blizzard has already learned all of this - they have the data, and I am confident that they are mostly smart people.  But a few things should be obvious:
  1. Too much dps in a single talent is bad.  Eclipse and Nature's Grace are the core cause of almost all moonkin scaling issues, simply because they are too powerful.  Eclipse doubles up and also hurts us more then most other classes when we are forced to move.
  2. Itemization scaling is important to control.  Blizzard has already said they'll address this in Cata, so I am not too worried that it will repeat itself as a problem.
  3. All buffs are not created equal.  Buffing Eclipse may have increased Moonkin dps, but it also aggravated the issues we were having or introduced new issues.  Buffing weaker talents may have solved those same issues without these complications.

Monday, February 1, 2010

4t10 is fixed in 3.2.2

Source: ( )
The warlock and druid set bonus bugs are fixed in 3.3.2.
Took three blue posts, but we got it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Moonkin DPS Talents, Glyphs and Set Bonuses

Edit: This is updated and is current for 3.3.3.

Hopefully you all will find this at least interesting and possibly helpful:

This is a chart of all current balance dps talents, glyphs and set bonuses that I could work out a way to test (either with Simcraft or reasonably exact data).  4t9 was not included because of it's additive nature, so it was nearly impossible for me to determine how much it added.  The ordering is done by average dps per talent point (or in the case of glyphs or set bonuses, just the dps increase).

: I only calculated the personal dps bonus.  Even if the talent provides a raid dps buff, you are assumed to have it from some other source.  For example: Improved Moonkin Form on this chart is only showing the spell power benefit, the haste is a raid buff and is ignored.  Moonkin form isn't shown at all because the personal benefit is 0 (assuming you have some other source of 5% crit).

I used Simcraft to calculate all of these.  The base wowhead profile I used was this:
The spec was chosen so that I could more easily move talents around to get values and to provide a more consistent baseline.

My original result for Celestial Focus was weird (the final point showed an actual dps loss).  This is a simulation artifact - what happens is at certain very exact values of haste, adding more can be a dps "loss" because of interactions with Eclipse, latency and spell queueing.  In real life these will not happen reliably (although you can use Simcraft to find and plan around them if you wish).  In order to get a better, more useful number for Celestial Focus I changed a gear piece to use a difference haste value (697) and that is represented as CF_697haste in the above chart - if you are looking for Celestial Focus numbers this is what I would use.

Keep in mind that the above chart is based on my current gear and isn't going to be accurate for you - however, it should still give a good idea of the relative value of everything displayed.

Edit: If you are interested the raw data I have uploaded it here.  The formatting is bad (non-existent, really) so view at your own risk.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Quick Thoughts - Nibelung and Owlkin Frenzy

Nibelung -

I picked this up because there's potential for it to be BIS for moonkins and what's dkp for if not to spend?

So far my impression has been very favorable - on most fights the valks live enough to provide a decent dps gain and the loss of stats just isn't as significant for a moonkin as it would be for most casters.  With that said it's hard to tell if Nibelung is actually a dps increase over my ToGC 25 MH/OH combo but it does seem competitive, my numbers were pretty comparable to top WoL parses:

Given that we're only talking about 6 ilvls difference and heroic vs non-heroic loot, I'd say that's a pretty good bonus in Nibelung's favor.

The only really bad fight for it is Blood Queen - her pulsing aura shreds the valks in about 6-8 seconds basically every time, so I used the MH/OH combo there.

Owlkin Frenzy -

This is just a general FYI.  Blood Queen's Pulsing shadow aura (the same one that kills Nibelung Valks) has a silver lining - it can proc Owlkin Frenzy.

On our kill I had just under 40% uptime with 3/3, which means the talent is worth more then 1% dps per point - very much worth speccing into for this fight (although if you're expecting a lot of procs on other fights, prepare yourself to be disappointed).  On other attempts I saw as high as 50% uptime.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Why Test Dummy DPS is Pointless

I'm sure most of you already know this but I always see threads about it.  And apparently there are people who worry about it or think it is legitimate.

So put it as simply as I can: Test dummy dps is not mathematically significant.  There is a caveat to this, and I'll get to it later.  But for now, onwards.

There are big reasons (and lots of small ones) why test dummies don't matter.

1. Test Dummies Are Not An Isolated Environment
Which is to say that when a warrior comes up and hits your test dummy and applies sunder, he's ruining your test by introducing an outside dps buff.  Is it a big change?  No - you're a balance druid.  But your treants being buffed is significant.  If a mage is trying fire and puts Scorch up, then that 5% crit is big.  Or the ret pally who's doing 3% crit.

But wait - this is controllable, right?  We can get a true, isolated test dummy dps test.  So for the sake of argument let's scratch this and move on to the next problem:

2 1.  Raid Buffs Change How DPS Scales.
This is true for all raid buffs - all of your spells scale differently with each and every stat.  Everything has a different spell power coefficient.  IS doesn't scale with crit at all (MF only does with 2t9), and Wrath and Starfire also vary significantly due to Eclipse.  But that's just the tip of the iceberg - the biggest problem for a moonkin on test dummies is haste.  Letting alone that past the soft cap starfire is the only thing that scales decently with it, you run into the problem that it moves.

The normal soft haste cap is right about 400.  But that's raid buffed and it includes the 5% spell haste from a shaman.  Take away that buff and the cap shoots up to 585.  Any moonkin about 400 haste is going to see inflated test dummy dps.  Now, you could get a test dummy raid together - I suppose it's possible, and if anyone's done it I'd love to hear about it.  But that does make it pretty useless for comparison purposes unless everyone does that.

2.  N
Which is to say, the statistical sample size N (the number of tests you do) that is actually significant.

If you want a lot of math (real math with letters, not the number math most people use) then I'd suggest reading here.  Yes it's wikipedia - and yes, it's only accurate on average.  But that is still accurate significantly more often then test dummy dps, so I'd recommend not arguing with it.

Ignore the other problems.  Let's assume that you've managed 100 tests of a decent length so they actually resemble something close to what a balance druid gets (~3 minutes or more).  Let's assume you made them all equal length - that no one outside intereferred and human error was zero.

Then maybe, maybe you can take those results and come up with something within 10% of the "real" number - which is to say, the number that accurately represents your unbuffed test dummy dps and totally ignores raid scaling and all the other issues.  And what you've got still isn't very useful, because all you can is that probably you do more dps then the other guy if you ever find yourself trying to solo Patchwerk at level 80.

3.  You're Killing Patchwerk
The problem here is that you're never going to kill him in a raid.

There are fights in ICC that allow melee to pull a patchwerk*
*except some of them can't use certain moves at certain times because AOE is a bad idea**
**oh, and the ones where even if they can probably sometimes stand still the entire time, occasionally they have to move due to fight mechanics.

There aren't any fights where casters can - the closest thing is Deathwhisper (if your raid lets you) and even then you need to be capable of stopping dps so you actually transition correctly.  Or if you see a Curse about to put your Starfire on cooldown for 15 seconds at the start of Lunar Eclipse.

No one fights Patchwerk anymore.  It's just not happening - maybe in the entry raids at 85, sure, and it will be fun.  But mechanics get more complicated and difficult as time goes on, and that involves movement - interrupts, all sorts of things you need to worry about.  Unless your test dummy dps involves those too (and remember they have to be consistent for it to be statistically valid), well, all you're doing is killing a level 60 boss and talking about your dps - and it's just not important.

The Caveat
Test dummy dps isn't really important, but that's not quite the same thing as saying test dummies are useless.  I use them all the time.

Test dummies are excellent for testing a lot of simple things.  Want to know how Moonfire works with the glyph and Imp Moonfire?  Test dummies will tell you.  Want to test the new 4t10 bonus when you get it?  Test dummies are good for that (although keep in mind there are bugs that only occur on test dummies, so it's not conclusive).  Now that doesn't mean you can use test dummies to compare something like 4t10 to 2t9, but it does mean you can probably get solid numbers from them, and from that it's math.  EJ uses test dummies for specific purposes all the time - validly - but they also make sure they control the test and they get a big N.

The real purpose of test dummies, however, is practice.  When my rotation changed in 3.2 I spent a lot of time on test dummies getting used to it.  I use test dummies when I want to make sure Power Auras will track Eclipse like I want it to.  I use test dummies when I'm working on my UI, because I want to see as much as I would in a raid - DBM Test bars, cooldown bars going, everything tracking.  That means I know it works, and more importantly I get used to looking in the right place for the information.

I also usually treat test dummies as close as I can to real boss fights - any player who rides by is a boss mechanic.  Shamans are usually coldflame, Warriors are void zones, Mages are AOE explosions and Hunters I, er, ignore.  But you get the idea - make it as dynamic as you can.  The key to practice is to do what you actually have to do in a raid, and if you use test dummies for that then I'll salute you.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Moonkins, Demonology Warlocks and Cataclysm

Wow, it's been a while since I posted.

Everyone's currently talking about the (minor) balance buff in 3.32.  From MMO:
Keep in mind that we tend to make much smaller adjustments during a minor patch cycle due to the limited amount of testing time we're allotted before applying such patches. For this reason you're not likely to see any major Balance druid changes coming in the next minor patch.

With that being said, one small change we have in the pipeline will double the passive effectiveness of Earth and Moon so that it provides a flat 2/4/6% spell damage increase, up from 1/2/3%. As an obligatory warning, this is subject to change prior to the next minor patch going live. (Source)
The short of it is this is probably the final nail in the coffin for significant moonkin changes before 4.0.  Slightly less than 3% is certainly nothing to sneeze at (and thankfully it isn't negatively impacted by movement like the Eclipse buff), but it's also obviously a stop-gap measure to keep moonkin dps from completely bombing in ICC.  But as moonkins start gearing into the range where we only have one significantly scaling stat (spell power) I anticipate seeing dps hitting a pretty significant plateau while other classes continue to scale.

Now to tangent - I recently (just after 3.3) got a warlock to level 80 and have been playing him as an alt:

(I named him Moonkin because I had the name and, well, I wasn't going to rename my druid.  Besides, it's funny).

I've been mostly playing him as Demonology.  If you're not familar with the spec Demonology has a talent called Molten Core - I'm just going to concentrate on one specific aspect of it though.
Increases the duration of your Immolate by 9 sec, and you have a 12% chance to gain the Molten Core effect when your Corruption deals damage. The Molten Core effect empowers your next 3 Incinerate or Soul Fire spells cast within 15 sec.

Incinerate - Increases damage done by 18% and reduces cast time by 30%.

Soul Fire - Increases damage done by 18% and increases critical strike chance by 15%.

Now it took me a while to realize this (sometimes I can be slow) but Molten Core is exactly what Eclipse wants to be.
  1. It forces demonology to use a second nuke that they otherwise wouldn't touch.
  2. It introduces additional RNG, but without a cooldown.  This is significant - a moonkin who goes 15 seconds without an Eclipse proc has effectively lost dps that he can never get back, but a demonology warlock who goes 15 seconds without a Molten Core proc can easily gain that back later with positive RNG.
  3. It's charge based, which reduces the impact movement has on the benefit.
  4. While it is a significant dps benefit, it's nowhere near the 25%-30% that Eclipse makes up for moonkins.  Therefore even with very bad Molten Core RNG, a warlock will still be in ok shape.
  5. It does not force demonology warlock into two (or even one!) soft caps for either haste or crit (there is a slight one at well over 1k haste, and also during heroism - but nothing comparable to the 400 haste moonkins see).
To me at least the parallels are amazing - two talents with effectively the same goal but with a vast difference in execution.  After playing demonology and then going to my druid my first thought is always "man, I wish Eclipse was more like Molten Core".

Now obviously I don't want a clone - that 1) wouldn't work and 2) would be kind of boring.  But image if Eclipse read something like this:
Your Insect Swarm and Moonfire ticks have a 10% chance to give you the Eclipse effect.  This empowers your next 4 Wraths cast within 20 seconds, increasing damage by 75% and cast time by 20%.
 Now those are placeholder numbers that would need to be tweaked, but the implications are pretty big - this removes both the haste and crit soft caps (in a way that doesn't impact Nature's Grace, so avoiding resto implications), removes some of balance's dependence on movement and gives moonkins a very dynamic rotation.

Even if we don't see something like this in 4.0 (and we very well might not, since Nature's Grace is going to see changes too) the design of of the talent itself is at least reason for hope.  Blizzard may have dropped the ball big time on Eclipse, but they are learning.