- Starfire damage has been increased by approximately 23%.
- Wrath damage has been increased by approximately 23%.
- The 4-piece Balance druid tier 11 PvE set bonus, Astral Alignment, now provides a total of 15% critical strike chance with 3 charges, decreasing by 5% per charge, instead of 99% decreasing by 33% per charge. This change was made because the set bonus proved so valuable it was not possible to upgrade out of the set into tier 12. To compensate, changes have been made to Starfire and Wrath (listed at the top of the druid class section). (src)
I've tried to look at this change from a couple of different angles and it looks like the results are favorable. First, I looked at the WoL parses of five different moonkin over a series of fights to see what a 23% damage increase would do to the parse results. When I applied a straight 23% buff to Starfire and Wrath it increased the total damage of the parses between 5.16% and 7.77%. That is a pretty wide margin and a significant portion of the variation seems to be due to the presence of Dark Intent, which fights are included, and player skill. This of course doesn't account for the nerf to 4T11, but I think it's obvious that 23% buff is a significant increase.
I also tried to compare the change using WrathCalcs. Hamlet has created a version that takes these new changes into account and I compared the results I got from the PTR version to the current live version using the same set of gear, glyphs, and rotation. When I compared the two versions of WrathCalcs I saw a 3.01% buff to overall DPS from these changes. EJ poster Berthold also ran the changes through SimulationCraft and had favorable results. Using standard glyphs and rotations, SimulationCraft showed the change to be worth a 2.13% buff. If you changed a few changes he showed a 4.87% buff.
All and all it's clear that this is a positive change from a purely mathematical point of view. However, it's also a great change from a quality of life point of view. This will simplify a few things while we wait to pick up our T12 set pieces. For example, using Starfall around the start of Eclipse will no longer be a DPS loss due to losing Astral Alignment charges to Starfall hits. In short, this change not only buffs the overall damage of a moonkin but it also simplifies the moonkin rotation a little bit which I think is a good thing. However, there are a few ripple effects from this change that we should consider.
The Glyph Impact:
Of the Prime Glyphs, Glyph of Insect Swarm and Glyph of Moonfire will still be the two dominate glyphs, but these buffs will change the debate about the third glyph a little. Glyph of Starsurge will still be the best Glyph when you have multiple targets and can cast Starfall on cooldown. In fact, Glyph of Starsurge is probably buffed a small amount because we no longer have to worry about using it during Astral Alignment, and it can get more of a buff from Lunar Eclipse.
The changes occur in Single target fights and in fights where Starfall is unlikely to be cast on cooldown. In 4.1, many of the top moonkin preferred Glyph of Starfire in these situations because it allowed us to cast Moonfire just once per Eclipse transition and most if not all of our MF/SF dots would be buffed by Eclipse. However, a buff to Wrath is also a buff to the Glyph of Wrath, and according to the calculations I did with WrathCalcs, in T12 level gear the Glyph of Wrath moved ahead of Glyph of Starsurge in these single target situations.
In my opinion this is a happy side effect, because it's another simplification of the Moonkin rotation which I think is a little overly complicated at the moment. Not using Glyph of Starsurge should make it a little easier to track and reapply DoTs, because the dot durations should stay aligned.
Is Starsurge Worth it?
I hadn't considered this possibility when I first read the change, but some observant people wondered how this change would Starsurge and our over all cast priority. In patch 4.1 we saw a significant nerf to Starsurge. In patch, 4.2 it looks like we are going to see a significant buff to our other nukes. On top of that, the 4T12 set bonus, diminishes Starsurge in terms of Damage per Energy. Considering all of this together you have to wonder if Starsurge is worth it in 4.2 raiding.
Hamlet has already made a great post on Elitist Jerks considering this question. What Hamlet says is that from a damage perspective Starsurge is still a strong spell. Starsurge has "the damage of a Starfire in the cast time of a Wrath," Therefore it's still stronger then both of the other spells from a damage perspective. When you consider Energy production and usage Starsurge is still favorable in all situations up until you have the 4T12 set bonus.
Once you get 4T12 the situation gets a little more complicated. With the 4T12 set bonus Starsurge will generate slightly less Energy per Second then Wrath or Starfire outside of Eclipse. As a result there are some situation where casting a Starsurge could extend the down time of Eclipse longer then necessary. However, as Hamlet indicates, this shouldn't be a big concern. The chance that Starsurge will extend your Eclipse down time is fairly small, and the mental math you would have to do to determine when Starsurge isn't advantageous is pretty complicated. Therefore, it's probably best to simplify your rotation and just cast Starsurge on cooldown as we do currently.
Other Concerns: Lunar Shower
The new changes do not impact the debate over skipping Lunar Shower in patch 4.2 at all but I want to take another look at it since we are getting pretty close to the patch being released.
In case you've forgotten when 4.2 is released "while under the effects of Lunar Shower, Moonfire generates 8 Solar Energy, and Sunfire generates 8 Lunar Energy." This change has lead to many people questioning if we should spec into Lunar Shower at all. I honestly thought we would see another change to Lunar Shower before 4.2 is released, because I don't think this is a question Blizzard wants to leave up to the player. However, since we've seen no change in the month since this patch note was announced and all indications are pointing to 4.2 being ready for release, it's a question that we players are going to half to answer.
From my point of view, there aren't a whole lot of positives for specing into Lunar Shower when 4.2 goes live. On a movement heavy fight it can still be a significant source of DPS. Yes, it will cause you to use up your Eclipse power and move out of Eclipse more quickly, but that is somewhat mitigated by the fact that it will also allow you to move into Solar Eclipse. Unfortunately that highlights the problem that Moonfire's energy generation is asymetric. Moonfire will generate Solar energy when your out of Eclipse and moving towards Solar, but generates no energy when out of Eclipse and moving towards Lunar.
However, the problem with skipping Lunar Shower is that there aren't any good alternative talents. Even when we do spec into Lunar Shower we still have 6 points to spend on optional talents that provide minor DPS gains, mana or utility. From my perspective, I don't have a big need for additional talent points to pick up utility.
In the end I think speccing into Lunar Shower is going to depend heavily on what fight is being worked on currently. If there is a fight that encourages a significant amount of multi-dotting with low movement, then you will see a lot of people getting out of Lunar Shower so they don't consume Eclipse with their Moonfire casts. However, outside of a big multi-dot fight, I don't see a reason to spec out of it. On single target fights without much movement Lunar Shower shouldn't have any significant impact, but none of the other available talents would either. On a fight with heavy movement Moonfire spam may be very beneficial.