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.