Friday, September 24, 2010

State of the Moonkin: Cata Beta Edition

At this point, the smart money says that Cataclysm will be released sometime in the next few months. Plus, Blizzard recently made big changes to the Balance spec, and those changes were generally well received by the moonkin community. Therefore, I would say that moonkin are probably 80% to 90% done, and all that is left are balancing changes, bug fixes, and maybe a few small changes here and there.

This means now is a good time to stop and take stock of the situation. We have a little time left to make suggestions to fix the few issues that remain and to praise the changes we like to hopefully cement them into the build that is released. Hamlet made a great post regarding the current state of moonkin on the EJ forums after the 12984 beta build, and I would like to take this opportunity to express my own thoughts about the current state of moonkin.

Rotation / Complexity:

I'm having a hard time placing the Moonkin rotation on the difficulty scale. At this point I think the moonkin rotation is going to fall into one of two buckets.

  • The Simple Rotation: Try for 100% DoT uptime, use Starsurge on cooldown, and cast Starfire or Wrath as filler depending on the current position of the Eclipse bar. - I'm not saying this rotation is simple. In fact, using the standard blizzard UI in the beta, I'm having a difficult time managing it without my normal addons. However, the choices you make using this strategy are simple. Is a DoT down? No, refresh it. Is Starsurge off Cooldown? Yes, cast a nuke.

  • The Clipping/Delaying Rotation: Same as above, except clip and delay casting DoTs to maximize their usage of Eclipse. - Currently, the total damage a DoT will do is determined when it is cast. If you cast a DoT, the tick damage won't change when you gain or lose a buff. So the player is incented to cast DoTs during Eclipse to have as many of them buffed by Eclipse as possible. Unfortunately, the duration of the DoTs and the duration of the Eclipse buff are unlikely to conveniently match up most of the time.

    This raises some interesting questions. Do you delay refreshing a DoT so that it can be cast during Eclipse? If so, what is the maximum beneficial delay? Is it a good idea to refresh a DoT at the end of Eclipse even if it has more then one tick left? If so, what is the maximum number of ticks should you over write? I would need the help of SimulationCraft to determine how helpful the clipping and delaying strategies are, but my worry is there might be significant benefits to clipping and delaying DoTs at the right time. If that is the case then the moonkin rotation will be very complicated.
My gut feeling is that the Simple Rotation I described above won't be far behind the best possible Clipping/Delaying strategy in terms of DPS. Clipping DoTs is expensive because it not only prevents your DoT from ticking fully but you spend extra Global Cooldowns. I expect that we will be able to make small gains in DPS by delaying or clipping a DoT by a tick or two, but anything larger then that will probably risky and counter productive. I don't have any math to back that up though.

Movement:

The real bane of moonkin DPS in WotLK was movement. You could get mad at the RNG or the over poweredness of Eclipse all you want but the real problem was that it was to easy to lose due to movement and other fight mechanics.

It's obvious that one of the design goals of Cataclysm is to reduce the moonkin's vulnerability to movement, and I think moonkin have improved significantly in this area. First, Eclipse is no longer a timed buff, so we will never miss out on a proc due movement, a stun, or just bad timing. Second, Lunar Shower makes Moonfire spam powerful and mana efficient in the right situation. Third, Shooting Stars takes our highest DPET nuke off of cooldown and makes it instant cast so that it can be used on the move. These are all major improvements for a spec that could do very little during movement in WotLK.

That isn't to say everything is all rainbows and roses. Movement still has a few teeth to take a bite out of Moonkin DPS. The first issue is the Moonfire spell itself. Moonfire is still a directional spell that requires you to be facing the boss to some degree. If you're running away from the boss to get out of Bone Storm or not get hit by Blistering Cold, Moonfire and Lunar Shower are useless. I'm also a little worried that overwriting an Eclipsed Moonfire DoT with an uneclipsed Moonfire would not improve our DPS. However, according my quick napkin math that doesn't seem to be a huge concern.

The second issue is that Nature's Torment is a timed buff procced by DoT casts. Since it is a timed buff it is very vulnerable to movement. Plus, during movement Lunar Shower encourages us to cast Moonfire and potentially proc Nature's Torment at a time when it is guaranteed to be partially lost. That said Nature's Torment is only a 4% DPS increase in a Patchwerk style fight. Losing some of it's effectiveness due to movement isn't going to kill moonkin DPS.

Overall, Moonkin are much less vulnerable to movement then they currently are on Live. I would like to see Moonfire changed into a non directional spell like Insect Swarm, but if the current beta set up goes live I would be happy with it.

Spells:

The DoTs
- Based upon the current Beta build Moonkin DoTs have never been stronger in my nearly 4 years playing WoW. If I remember correctly they were about 20% - 25% of moonkin DPS in the beginning of WotLK. According to my simulator they would be about 35% of moonkin DPS if the current beta build was released and please note that moonkin DoTs currently do not scale with Haste.

Insect Swarm is a very strong spell that gets a big boost from the Glyph of Insect Swarm which is unchanged from the current live version.

Moonfire's ticks were converted from a 3 second tick to a 2 second tick in the latest beta build without changing the base damage or spell power coefficients. I hope this is an intended change as Moonfire could use the boost.

My open questions regarding Moonkin DoTs are:

  1. Are moonkin DoTs still intended to scale with Haste?
  2. Is Insect Swarm too powerful and be nerfed?
  3. Are Moonfire's 2 second ticks and intended change or a bug?

The Nukes - If DoTs are relatively strong then moonkin Nukes must be relatively weak. The weakness of our nukes is primarily due to the strenght of our DoTs. In WotLK, our nukes got exclusive use of Eclipse and talents like Nature's Majesty and Wrath of Cenarious. My simulator shows that Wrath, Starfire and Starsurge combined do about 60% of our damage, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Nukes are easy, but they are vulnerable to movement. This should help our DPS in the more dynamic fights.

The Others -

  • Starfall is a little less powerful, but still a very strong spell. The big question I have is when is the best time to use it? Obviously it gets a big boost if you can use it during Lunar Eclipse, and the cooldown actually matches up with Eclipse fairly well. However, it obviously does better when there are multiple targets. The exact Strategy we use casting Starfall will probably heavily depend on the encounter.

  • Force of Nature feels the same as it always has. A solid DPS boost, but some times a pain in the ass.

  • Thorns is very strong currently and I have a feeling it will be nerfed. At the moment it is so strong you could make an argument on the main tank full time but I have a hard time believing that is the intended use of the spell. I see it more as a PvP cooldown or a way to help an Add tank build aggro quickly.

  • Wild Mushrooms are starting to get me excited. I would love to have them as I work on Heroic Lich King. I agree with Hamlet that they might be a bit to strong, but then again they are also a bit situational and take a bit of time to manage. They also got a range nerf in the most recent beta build.

Stats:

I've built my simulator to stat evaluations as well. My default settings are 7000 total Spell Power (3500 SP + 3000 Int), 1742 Hit, 1000 Crit rating, 1000 Haste rating, 1000 Mastery rating, and full raid buffs. Unfortunately I don't have a good idea of what the stats levels will be for a level 85 raiding moonkin. I choose these values because they seemed reasonable and equitable. This is the stat valuation it produced.

StatMarginal Value
Intelligence
1.33
Spell Power
1
Hit Rating
0.66
Haste Rating
0.38
Crit Rating
0.37
Mastery Rating
0.33

Honestly, I was surprised by these results, but I am getting similar (but slightly different) results from WrathCalcs. Hit Rating has always been the undisputed #1 DPS stat for moonkin. If you believe these results (and I don't have any reason not to) it is a distant third behind Intellect and Spell Power. That doesn't necessarily mean we will change the way we gear. Hit Rating is still the best of the rating stats and I assume that Int and Spell Power will be received in default amounts determined by ilevel. However, it is a bit of a shock that took me a little bit to get my mind around.

Intelligence and Spell Power are the clear favorites and yes Spell Power does still exist on the beta. You primarily get it your weapon, but my old enchants and socket bonuses have it as well. They are followed by Hit Rating at a distant third which makes Hit capping still a priority. Then you have Haste Rating, Crit Rating, and Mastery Rating all clumped up in a little group.

My Haste Rating valuation assumes that the DoTs will not scale with haste. If that does change on the Beta it will be a clear favorite over Crit Rating or Mastery Rating.

Mastery Rating is the clear black sheep of the family. It's not that far behind crit in my valuation, but in ever valuation I've seen it is last. I think there are a few of reasons for this.
  • First, Mastery increases our Eclipse damage. According to my simulator that means it will only impact 55% - 60% of our spells pre-Eclipse damage.

  • Second, Mastery Rating has a relatively small impact on the combined Eclipse buff. Eclipse comes with a base buff of 25% and each Mastery Point increases the buff by 1.5%. When you train Mastery at level 80 you automatically pick up 8 Mastery Points for an additional 12% buff for a total base buff of 37%. So, if you increase the eclipse buff by "1%" with Mastery Rating, you're really only increasing your damage by 0.73%.

  • Third, Mastery Rating has the lowest ratio. It takes 179.28 Mastery Rating to gain one Mastery Point. That is 179.28 Mastery Rating to increase your Eclipse buff by 1.5%.
I don't know if these are necessarily problems or not because I really don't know what a raiding moonkin's gear will look like at this point or not. However, the Rating stats do seem to be very weak when compared to Intelligence and Spell Power. It's true that rating stats tend to be weak at lower levels of gear, but I don't think they were this weak in WotLK. We can't really avoid the rating stats on gear, but it could have implications for how we gem and how we upgrade our gear when new content is released.

TL:DR

Overall, I think Moonkin are in a pretty good spot. I don't know where we stand in terms of DPS when compared to other classes and specs, but if the current build went live, I would be happy with it (assuming the bugs were fixed). That said here are a few of my open questions / suggestions.

  • Keep an eye on rotational complexity. I think it's in a good spot if the Simple rotation I described above is the dominate rotation, but it could get overly complex really quickly clipping and delaying DoTs shows significant DPS gains.

  • A moonkin's Movement DPS should be much better in Cataclysm, but it's based on Moonfire which is a directional spell. I would love for Moonfire to be cast on any target in 40 yards if you’re facing them or not.

  • Moonkin Nukes are a little weaker then we are used to. The DoTs are a little stronger. As long as our overall DPS is competitive none of that really matters. The main question I have is will Moonkin DoTs scale with Haste. Blizzard said they will, and they haven't said anything otherwise, but we've been in the beta for a while with out this being included.

10 comments:

Asbel said...

Your concerns about dot clipping suggest that they did not implement the promised dot extension mechanic? (eg casting a 10 second dot when 2 seconds were remaining would leave a 12 second dot) I figured that was a pretty important part of the "haste affects dots" change.

Dimensional said...

Mostly agree with almost everything. However, there's one point where I strongly disagree, namely the "directional Moonfire" issue. There are two useful techniques to overcome this limitation which anyone can master with a bit of practice (thus making MF "not-directional" becomes less important):

1.- Strafing. In any situation you have to kite or move away from something, try to move laterally (A-D or Q-E) while controlling the direction with the mouse secondary button instead of moving forward. It is somewhat easier if you set up your keyboard as a WASD first person shooter, so that Q-E and A-D are swapped from their default settings. This way you can cast Moonfire while moving, since the boss will not lie outside your ~180ยบ sight arc, and you won't lose speed.

As a caster player (my main is a moonkin, but I have also played mages and shamans), this trick really changed my PvP life (I'm not a huge PvP fan, but liked doing some battlegrounds while leveling). I think serious melees need to learn it too (note that I have only played one melee to see the DK quest chain).

2.- A second trick (which you can combine with the first) involves jumping, using the mouse to quickly face the boss, casting your spell (I have IS and MF in keys 1 & 2) and then turning back into your running direction. At first, this sounds a bit harder but it becomes mechanic just as the first trick once you get used to it.

I got my druid copied to the beta just a few days ago. When I fought the second or third mob just by strafing and using Lunar-Shower-powered Moonfire (after the obvious opening nuke) whithout my mana even noticing, it felt awesomesauce. Add Shooting Stars for enhanced fun and it becomes awesome to the power of awesome.

Graylo said...

@Asbel

I'm not talking about clipping the last tick. I haven't tested it personally, but I haven't heard that clipping the last tick is possible.

I'm talking about clipping multiple ticks. For example, what if you get to the end of Eclipse with 8 seconds left on your DoT? Do you clip it so that your eclipsed dot extends well after eclipse is down? Do you save the GCD and refresh it when you have only one tick left?

@Dimensional

Sure strafing and the jump trick can help. In my opinion strafing is common sense when moving left or right. Moving Backwords would take a little prep, but is do able.

The problem is you can't always plan a head, because you don't aways know where you want to go. In such a situation Strafing doesn't necessarly help.

Regarding the jump trick, I don't think it's as easy as you make it out to be. If that is something that blizzard is counting on then they might as well make Moonfire non directional.

bang said...

PTR - Build 13033
-Moonfire and Insect Swarm scale with haste.
-Sunfire not :( and it's ticking every 3 sec instead every 2 sec.
(you can use Sunfire with a /cast Moonfire makro)

Lespaul said...

One of the first questions I asked myself whilst trying to work out to some extent what the new rotation was likely to be, was 'will Nature's Torment affect the DoT that procced it?' If the answer is 'no', then theres a good arguement for 'double' casting Moon/Sunfire - with the help of Lunar Shower the inefficency of doing this is atleast partially counted for. Second question was 'when do I cast DoTs?' The answer, for me, here is simple although some I have spoken too seem to think its ludicrous given that 'DoTs are so strong'. Given that eclipse is so important, and minimum downtime (as opposed to maximum uptime) is vital to our dps, it seems sensible to me to make non-eclipse phases as short as possible; ie. only cast spells that push the energy bar towards the next eclipse, only casting IS and spamming MF in periods of movement. When (if) haste eventually does affect dots (I really hope they dont backtrack on that one) it will be an even greater argument for casting DoTs at the beginning of eclipse. Casting DoTs outside of eclipse effectively reduces the number of potential eclipse periods you could have during an encounter. An argument that was presented to me counter this statement was 'but Natures Torment would effectively shorten periods of downtime due to the 15% haste buff'. This is true, but in order to preserve the buff, you have to refrain from casting DoTs during eclipse, which would be a very definite dps loss. 'well you could cast another DoT just before entering eclipse so the majority of it benefits from eclipse', doing this means that you have used 2 extra global cooldowns in a non-eclipse phase, negating the effects of NT you cast to reduce the period in the first place.

So all that said, these are the rules I am proposing:

1. Cast DoTs at the begining of Eclipse.
1a. In Solar Eclipse, cast Moon/Sunfire (twice if need be to benefit from Natures Torment) then Insect Swarm, then cast Wrath til end of eclipse
1b. In Lunar Eclipse, cast only MF (again, twice if need be) then Starfire til end of Eclipse.
1c. Only cast DoTs out of eclipse if moving
2. Preferably cast Starsurge first cast after the end of a Solar Eclipse, hopefully with a Shooting Stars proc to keep up damage out of eclipse phases, and decrease time taken to proc the next eclipse. Another viable time to cast SS is after your DoTs in Lunar Eclipse as this will not shorten the eclipse period. Only cast SS after a Lunar Eclipse period with a Shooting Stars proc.
3. In movement phases cast IS and spam MF. If still in an eclipse phase at end of movement, recast dots as if at the beginning of eclipse.

It looks something like this when starting from 0 energy:

1. FF (if its still worth it)
2. SF til Solar Eclipse
3. MF (x2 if necessary)
4. IS
5. Wrath til end of eclipse
6. SS (if available)
7. Wrath til Lunar Eclipse
8. MF (x2 if needed)
9. SS (if available)
10. SF til end of eclipse
11. SS (if available with Shooting Stars proc)
12. repeat from 2

its all just conjecture and pigion math on my part tbh, but where maximum eclipse uptime/minimum downtime is key to maintaining dps, it seems pretty sensible in my head. Maybe you could run it through your spreadsheet to see what the results are?

Lespaul said...

edit: Starfall should be used as near to cooldown as possible at the begining of a Lunar eclipse phase (after dots)

Lespaul said...

edit2: guess theres also an argument for casting a dot at the very end of an eclipse cycle, just before the last spell turns you aver zero energy to give you some dot damage during non eclipse phases. Would probably mean clipping the end of the dot cast at the beginning of the eclipse phase...

Dimensional said...

«Regarding the jump trick, I don't think it's as easy as you make it out to be. If that is something that blizzard is counting on then they might as well make Moonfire non directional»

Fair point. It doesn't look like Blizzard designs PvE DPS based on movement tricks, besides "environmental dances" such as "get out of the fire, hide behind the ice tomb". And then there's the question of whether they should at all; maybe it is fun for me, but it isn't for other players or it puts moonkins at a disadvantage compared to other classes who don't need 1337ish movement skills to save their DPS performance.

On the DoT debate, it seems hard to assess the relative importance of all the (both currently known and unknown) factors currently favoring one refreshing policy over another, how they change with stat changes and how they interact. Then we have a "new" DoT in the form of Sunfire. Add to that tier bonuses, trinkets and it becomes even harder. So we need some kind of simulation-based approach. I think I could write some Python code if I had some spare time.

A final thought: maybe there's some complex DoT refreshing policy that slightly beats the "simple" rotation but, if it's hard to use, human implementation errors could easily outweigh some or all of the benefits of the complex rotation, not to mention movement, fight mechanics...

Anonymous said...

Tbh I like that moonfire is directional. I am against mechanics that oversimplify everything. It helps the skilled players make that small DPS difference. There is supposed to be a small penalty when moving anyway.
As for the whole rotation, if clipping DOTs is going to be in our rotation, then I'm only thinking of 1 or 2 points in genesis and perhaps another glyph instead of the starfire glyph. Why waste points in a talent that extends dots since they are not gona live out the full duration?

Moonlyt

Sylliebear said...

Regarding the jump trick, I don't think it's as easy as you make it out to be.

Graylo,

I think you should compare notes with any decent hunter friends you have. Between arcane shot, aimed shot, and all of their stings, directional instants are a way of life. It's quite possible to become very proficient with the jump shots with some practice. My first main was a hunter and I still use it in situations like Blistering Cold to dot the dragon up as I run away. In fact, it's so ingrained and reliable that I didn't even realize that Insect Swarm ISN'T directional. I just always did it because it worked.