Putting the Hybrid back in Druids:
In the Class Design & Balance Q&A there were several questions about, Hybridization for druids and the "Hybrid Tax," and I think Blizzard's response is summed up best in these quotes:
The overall philosophy of the Druid talent tree is to bring some hybridization back to the Druid class. The 4 Druid specs have become very focused on never using the forms that they do not specialize in. We would like to bring the whole class back together more. So, interesting functionality themed around the different combat roles has been introduced.From a high level perspective I support this design goal. I like the idea of Druids being able to temporarily fill another role, and that's why I suggested it back in June of 2010. Theoretically it makes a lot of sense. From a raid composition stand point, you don't have to bring as many core healers if you were only bringing that many handle a few sort periods of high damage. Or, you could stack a few restos and have them pop their cooldown for a temporary burst of DPS.
We don't intend for that added hybridization to be offset by any sort of DPS nerf. While DPSing, a druid's DPS will be entirely competitive with other DPS. We hope to see druids that do things like, "DPS in Cat Form most of the fight, but during one phase, when healing is super difficult, pop out of Cat, hit Heart of the Wild, Tranquility, and spam heals on the raid to help top everyone off, then go back to Cat and resume DPSing."
That all sounds good in theory but I worry about how it will work in practice. For example, the version of Heart of the Wild previewed at Blizzcon said "Healing spells generate Lunar or Solar energy and will benefit from Lunar and Solar Eclipse." Unfortunately, that's a horrible idea. The concept of Eclipse works for moonkin, because DPS occurs over an extended period of time. As a moonkin, I know that I am going to be switching between Lunar and Solar multiple times in a given fight and good and bad luck should balance each other out. For a temporary buff like Heart of the Wild that falls apart.
How would Blizzard balance Heart of the Wild? Should they balance it around having Eclipse? If that is the case then Moonkin heals could easily be too weak to be of any significance when not in eclipse. What if they balance HotW around not having Eclipse? In this case, HotW could be way to strong. Obviously, there would be an advantage for holding Eclipse to use it if possible. This could be devastating to class balance in PvP. Balancing it round some point in the middle would just be picking up the disadvantages from both sides.
My other concern is that applying Eclipse to healing might be too foreign of a concept for players. By doing so, Blizzard is basically adding a second healing style to class that already has a healing spec. Moonkin that are already familiar with resto would be forced to learn a new style to take advantage of the ability. Moonkin, who do not typically heal are already learning something foreign, but Blizzard would be missing a big opportunity to introduce them Resto, but continuing with the Eclipse concept.
My suggestion to Blizzard is to keep it simple and to not get to creative. You're already asking someone to do something they are not necessarily familiar with. There's no need to complicate it further. The buff should be consistent and include a mana cost reduction so that players don't need to concern themselves Eclipse or mana over these short periods of time. The suggestion I made a year and a half ago was to allow moonkin to heal in moonkin form temporarily and buff the heals by some percentage. I think this would meet all the goals Blizzard has in mind.
Troubled Tier Six and Master Shapeshifter:
As I said in my last post, the tier 6 options at level 90 were some of my least favorite, and after looking around the internet it was clear to me that a lot of moonkin agreed with that sentiment. So, it's not surprising that the tier 6 talents were addressed in the Class Design & Balancing Q&A. Unfortunately their response only made my fears worse.
The level 90 Druid talents deliberately come in 3 different levels of work required. Heart of the Wild is perfect for an encounter where there is a period where increased healing is needed for a short time, and dps is not the need of the encounter. Something like the Chimaeron encounter where more healing is needed at certain times, and dps is less important. Master Shapeshifter targets the Druid who is willing to do a lot of work shifting back and forth or occasionally needs to heal or damage, such as Blood Queen Lanathel, where a Tranquility boosted by the talent would help your group a lot during her air phase. Disentanglement is there for the "lazy" Druid who doesn't want to do that work, but still gets some benefit from a well-timed shapeshift.Though I am sure Blizzard doesn't intend for us to interpret the comment this way but here is the way a majority of players will apply this comment. "Good players will take Heart of the Wild or Master Shapeshifter depending on the fight. Bad players can take Disentanglement so they can at least have something." I'm honestly really surprised Blizzard would make a comment like this, because it's such an obvious trap.
The comment I particularly hate is when Blizzard says "Master Shapeshifter targets the Druid who is willing to do a lot of work shifting back and forth or occasionally needs to heal or damage." If Blizzard actually believes this it shows a shocking lack of understanding of the player base by Blizzard at least from the moonkin perspective.
As you know Master Shapeshifter as we know it allows a druid to buff his primary role by doing something out side of that role. The example provided by Blizzard was that our melee abilities could buff our spell power and vice versa. If this buff is significant then it becomes a required talent, because as Blizzard knows, there is no such thing as an optional DPS talent. That simple truth is the entire reason for the last two Talent System redesigns. If Master Shapeshifter provides a significant DPS buff then, no one would take Heart of the Wild or Disentanglement, because that would tell all of the other players and potential guilds that "Hey, I'm a bad player." And no, one wants to think that they are a bad player or to tell other players that they are bad.
To be fair, Master Shapeshifter does make a lot of sense for someone specced into Resto or Guardian spec. I could easily see a healer doing a little DPS when things are not busy to buff the heals for when they are. Tanks are in a similar situation when in between add phases and tank swaps. But for cats and moonkins this makes little sense and could over complicate two already very complicated rotations.
The Blizzcon version of Incarnation didn't mention how it would impact DPS in moonkin form, but Blizzard was nice enough to address this talent in the Class Design & Balance Q&A. The
Incarnation for Balance transforms the Druid in to the Chosen of Elune Form, which currently increases spell damage done and Solar and Lunar energy generated. That is, of course, subject to change.This seems fairly straight forward and I'm fine with that. It's still impossible to say if we will use it or not yet since we don't know the math behind it or the MoP version of Force of Nature, but it's obviously a promising DPS buff.
That said, I've seen some comments indicating that some people are upset that it doesn't do more. If I am reading them correctly they would like it to be more unique like Tree of Life form or the Warlock Demon form where we would get new abilities or have our current ability's modified in ways other then pure damage. I can see that perspective but at the same time I don't think it's really necessary.
Bi-Polar Hurricane and Moonkin AoE
During the Blizzcon Class panel it was said that "In 5.0 Hurricane will have a new arcane function to make sure you can use it whenever you have to," according to MMO Champion. I interpret this to mean that Hurricane will behave in a way similar to Moonfire. As in it will be buffed by Solar when in Solar and buffed by Lunar when in Lunar. If that's true, I think it's a good change, but I don't think it will have a huge impact on Moonkin AoE unless there are other changes as well.
Current Moonkin AoE center's around Wild Mushroom because it's the strongest whether that's by design or not. We hold solar during AoE periods because all but one of the spells we use in an AoE situation are buffed by Solar Eclipse. Giving Hurricane an arcane function won't change this situation because we would still be encouraged to stay in Solar for WM and the DoTs.
So, if that comment was a small preview into a larger goal of revamping Moonkin AoE, I think Blizzard will find a lot of support among players. I and a lot of players I've talked to haven't been happy with Wild Mushroom in AoE situations because placing three mushrooms feels contrived and difficult during the run of play, in fights like Maloriak and Rhyolith. However, in fight's like Rag where we can place the mushrooms before the Elementals spawn, it works great. I think it would be nice for Moonkin AoE to follow a model of WM being a DPS opener, but Hurricane providing a bulk of the damage done. However, Hurricane would have to be buffed (or the other spells nerfed) to make this happen, and Blizzard would have to address how WM is affected by Eclipse or we will still hang out in Solar during AoE phases.
One possibility suggested to me would be to turn Wild Mushroom damage into fire damage for example so that it's not buffed by either Eclipse and can be balanced around a consistent damage output. I find this idea very appealing since it should make holding Solar Eclipse insignificant because only Insect Swarm would be buffed by Lunar Eclipse.
Good Riddance to Relics:
I know there are druids out there that are morning the loss of relics, but I couldn't be happier that they are getting the boot. While relics did provide a few interesting gear choices in TBC, in most of my years with this game they have been more of a headache then a help. For most of TBC there was only one option. In WotLK, the Tier 8 relic was worse then the Tier 7 relics. And when they were converted to stat sticks in Cataclysm they were boring and almost impossible to upgrade. I say good by and good riddance.