Tuesday, February 21, 2012

MoP Talent Calc: Second Impressions

I had a lot of fun last week looking over the new MoP talent calculator, discovering changes and tweeting about them with Lissanna, Murmurs and the rest of you. However, one thing became obvious to me really quickly. I had way too many topics to write about to put them all in one post. The problem was there were so many interesting additions and changes that I wanted to comment on, but there where also a lot of comments like "I still don't like the new Insect Swarm" or "No change to Heart of the Wild yet." So, last week I choose to focus on the changes. This week I want to comment on some of the broader thoughts I have about the new design and address some of those comments I read and disagreed with.

IS Change: A Positive View

One of the most common topics of conversation last week was the change of Insect Swarm from a DoT to a debuff. Lissanna made a blog post about the new design on her blog Restokin, and Murmurs made this comment on twitter after the new calculator was released:

"Still do not approve of Insect Swarm. Changing it from nuke damage to all damage just makes it worse, not better. Target switching guys."

After reading these and other comments from around the internet, it struck me that many of us are missing the point of the change. Let me ask a couple of rhetorical questions. What are the good moonkin fights currently, and on which fights are we weak? Those questions are easy to answer with a quick look at the WoL rankings. Any fight with AoE or multiple persistent targets is a good fight for moonkin, but on any single target fight like Ultraxion we are weak. This is one of the biggest problems with Moonkin DPS currently, and I think this Insect Swarm change is trying to address that.

Lissanna said in her blog post that she thought "hampering solar cleave is the primary reason for the change." While I do think limiting solar cleave is part of the reasoning, but I think that analysis ignores the significant issue of Multi-target vs Single Target DPS (yes, this is different the solar cleave). Not to get to sidetracked, but I view solar cleave as an AoE tactic. You get into Solar and hold it while DoTing as many targets as possible while using Mushrooms on CD and Hurricane if needed. In my opinion, with multi-target DPS we still maintain our rotation on a primary target but throw DoTs on a second and possibly third target when we can (the classic example being V&T in BoT). Some form of eclipse cleave will always exist as long as you have AoE and DoTs that are buffed by Eclipse, but this change with the change to Hurricane should limit it's positive and negative impacts. However, Hurricane has no impact on a moonkin's multi-target DPS so we can't expect that change to affect the Multi-Target vs Single Target issue.

What is the Multi-Target vs Single Target issue? What a lot of people forget in the heat of the moment is that none of these changes happen in a vacuum. Improving a moonkin's single target DPS isn't as simple as buffing the spells because that could make those same spells too strong in a multi target situation. If they buff our nukes but nerf our DoTs, that might fix the multi vs single target problem but they would also run the risk of putting us in a situation were we don't want to cast our DoTs like in WotLK and TBC. If they keep our DoTs strong but limit our nukes, then we are in the situation we currently are in.

So, how do they buff our single target DPS without buffing our multi-target DPS and keep our DoTs relevant to our rotation. One solution is to create a buff that affects only one target like the new Insect Swarm buff. This is one of the reasons why I think the Insect Swarm change is a good thing.

This isn't to say that I think the current design of Insect Swarm is perfect. This change doesn't happen in a vacuum either, and I do recognize that this design has some issues with PvP. I also don't want to have to refresh this buff in PvE even at a minute duration. However, I think those concerns are manageable. From a purely PvE perspective, they could add a glyph that causes your Starsurge to refresh the duration of Insect Swarm. Or, maybe your Rogue Symbiosis ability is a redirect type ability that would transfer all of our DoTs and debuffs to a new target. I'm not sure what the coding limitations are, but another option may be to have apply like Earth and Moon and have our DoTs on other targets adjust dynamically when targets gain and lose the debuff.

In short, I recognize that there are issues with the current Insect Swarm design, but I view the general direction as a good thing. Hopefully, Moonkin DPS won't be so lopsided in the future because of it.

Heart of the Wild: In for the Long Haul

One of the most common views expressed last week had more to do with a change that wasn't made then one that was. I saw several comments expressing exacerbation that HotW wasn't changed, fixed or removed. While I am no fan of Heart of the Wild, I would be a bit surprised if we saw any significant change in this ability any time soon. I think a lot of the people who expect this talent to change significantly are forgetting the design goals for druids that Blizzard expressed around Blizzcon. You may remember that Blizzard talked about bring back some of the druids hybrid nature and that some players missed being Shapeshifters. If that remains the design goal, this talent isn't going anywhere until at least the expansion after MoP.

I also wonder if we as moonkin are being a little hard on Heart of the Wild. To use an analogy that shows I watch too much Top Chef, I view DPSers as the traditional chefs of the player base with tanks and healers being the pastry chefs. Whenever you see a pastry chef on one of the cooking shows they seem contractually obligated to say "pastry chefs are the same as traditional chefs, but we can cook everything when they can't do pastry." I don't know if that's true or not in the kitchen, but I definitely think it’s true with regard to the PvE roles in WoW. Tanks and healers have to have some experience DPSing because that’s how you level most of the time, and DPS is the easiest roll in the game. Asking a DPS to heal or tank is riskier because those roles require tools that most DPSers are less familiar with and the basics of the tanking and healing roles aren't quite as obvious as the DPS role.

When I step away from my DPS bias, I notice that HotW has some potential in the right situation. Take the Ultraxion fight for example. It's a DPS race where the healing needs are light early in the fight but much heavier later. This would present an opportunity for managed HotW usage if a guild was struggling with the enrage timer on the fight. Resto Druids could pop their HotW cooldown early when healing is more stable and give the DPS a push to help them get over the enrage hurtle. Or, may be healing is only tight for short periods of time and could benefit from having a moonkin throw bomb heals on a single target for 45 seconds, allowing the raid to run with one less healer.

I'm still not a big fan of Heart of the Wild, but I do think its critics have been a little too hard on it. It's not going to be the exciting level 90 talent that some people want, and I seriously doubt it has any significance as an emergency tool. However, it does have the potential to help a raid group if used in a managed way where the raid's needs are made clear ahead of time.

The Moonkin Tank?

In no way do I think anything in the current MoP Talent calculator suggests that we will see a return of the TBC Panzerkin, but look at all the defensive cooldowns its possible for a druid to have in this calculator?

  • Barkskin - The old stand by.

  • Tier 2 - Nature's Swiftness or Renewal will probably be in almost every moonkin's tool belt.

  • Dream of Cenarius - Would work very well with Nature's Swiftness but could also be helpful on its own.

  • Might of Ursoc - Requires a little effort but could be very useful in an extreme situation.

  • Movement & Control Options - Tiers 1, 3, & 5 are full of options that could be used to get a druid out of a sticky situation.

I've spent years, explaining deaths by saying Barkskin was on cooldown or I had already used my healthstone. It looks like we will have a lot more options to keep our selves a live in the next expansion and fewer excuses for early deaths.

Tier 5: The DPS Tier

Whenever I've discussed tier 5 of the new talent trees I've talked about the options in broad terms saying what I like about each talent on its own. Then I always finished the comment with a generic line like "but the best talent will be determined when we get more details and can math it out." This makes the tier sound really boring, and it was boring until the addition of Soul of the Forest and a little tweet from Murmurs. He asked:

@Graylo So ... am I crazy or does Soul of the Forest seem much better than Incarnation?

I did some extremely rough napkin math with a lot of assumptions that may or may not be correct and ended up agreeing with Murmur's assessment. Soul of the Forest does seem better then Incarnation in pure math terms, but I then realized that pure math will never make this tier interesting. If all the options improve DPS by about the same amount then it doesn't really matter which talent you pick, if one of the talents maths out to be clearly the best in most situations the choice obvious, and choice is boring in either situation.

The only thing that can make this tier interesting is design. Let’s take Soul of the Forest and Incarnation as examples. The Dragon Soul raid has shown us that total DPS isn't always the best measurement when judging talents, glyphs, stats or any of the other DPS choices we make. There are a lot of fights like Ultraxion where total Sustained DPS is the most important thing and a talent like Soul of the Forest will likely shine. However, SotF is a horrible option on a fight like Spine of Deathwing where short term burst DPS is extremely important and Incarnation is clearly the better choice. A talent like Incarnation would also likely be a better option in a fight with lots of movement and down time like Morchok. This is a clear example of where design has created a significant choice even when numbers are involved.

To say the least, I am very happy with how Soul of the Forest and Incarnation are shaping up, but it begs the question of how is Force of Nature going to fit into this tier? Our trents are basically burst DPS as is. If the situation calls for burst then the choice of Incarnation vs Force of Nature would be easily mathed out. So, I'm hoping that Blizzard is planning a change.

Personally, I would like to see our third Tier 5 option to be AoE or Multi-target focused. The current versions of Soul of the Forest and Incarnation are both single target focused, so multi-target DPS could be a nice niche for the tier's third option. There are several ways that Blizzard could implement this. If Blizzard wants to keep the FoN structure they could give the trents some sort of cleave or splash damage for when targets are grouped together. I also wouldn't be opposed to scrapping Force of Nature entirely and making it a Tree of Life style buff that allowed us to put Insect Swarm on multiple targets and multi-dot. Another option would be to grant our nukes some splash damage for a short period of time.

Tier Choices: Advanced, Moderate, Dummy

Maybe I'm just being insecure, but several of the tiers and their choices seem to be designed with skill level in mind as well as the talents utility. Take Tier 1 for example:

  • Feline Swiftness - Increase movement speed by 15%.

  • Displacer Beast - Teleports druid 20 yards forward and activates cat form and prowl.

  • Wild Charge - Six different affects based on form.

I realize that all of these options have their own advantages in the right situation, but you could also separate them based on the skill level needed to use them to their fullest potential. Wild Charge could be extremely powerful when used by a highly skilled player. Instead of being just one ability, Wild Charge can be six based upon what form the player is in, and a highly skilled player should be able to manage it in extraordinary ways. Displacer Beast is the moderate option in that it provides a short burst of movement, but its user activated and you have to be careful about where you land. Feline Swiftness on the other had seems like the default option that's nice but doesn't require any skill.

I'm probably being a little irrational, but I'm a little concerned that some of the talent choices will be dictated by a perception of skill. For example, I don't want to feel pressured to take Wild Charge because that is what the "good" moonkin take. I'm not sure how Blizzard could avoid it but there seems to be several choices in the tiers that may be made more based on perception of skill then the utility provided


Murmurs said...

To be fair on Insect Swarm, it's PvE impact revolves entirely around encounter design, as most abilities do. We didn't see all that many encounters with frequent target swapping this expansion, but it's certainly happened in many others.

Insect Swarm is mildly annoying on encounters like Conclave of Wind or Blood Princes where you DPS one target for an extended amount of time then switch to another target for an extended period of time. It's heartbreaking on encounters like Ascendent Council or that lightning boss from Wintergrasp.

When you have a short time to deal high amounts of damage to a secondary target, Insect Swarm is crippling. Yeah, sure, it isn't the ramp up time of a Rogue or a Retribution Paladin; what's a single GCD, really, but it's still a step back from where we are now.

Really, the situation probably isn't any different, the penalties are just harsher. In a quick switch, now, you'd not use DoTs if the target wouldn't live long enough for them to contribute enough damage to be worth it. Really, the new Insect Swarm isn't much different because the same rule applies. What is different is that the cost of not using it is way steeper. Previously, you'd lose, say, 10 seconds worth of IS, now you're losing 20% damage off nukes. Same concept with whether it's worth not casting IS, but the situations where you can ignore using it are fewer.

I get the reasoning behind the change -- to limit multi-target damage while still retaining the relative power of nukes/DoTs -- but I find it a really inelegant way of going about it. Plus, we need that multi-target damage. Most melee have methods of dealing damage to two or more targets that isn't "proper" AoE but is a huge damage increase, such as Blade Flurry. These abilities aren't going away, we need some method of keeping up with Combat or Warriors using Cleave on dual-targets.

As for HotW, I don't feel that we're being unfair towards it. Blizzard has their stated intent, but that doesn't mean that it's the right direction to take the class. It's about cost effectiveness and relative power. Paladins, I think, are a better example of this than Priests, although this applies to every class out there.

We'll use Ultraxion as the example. How much DPS do you give up when you have a Balance Druid use HotW and start healing towards the end? Even if their heals are just as strong as a Restoration Druid's -- which they won't be -- how much effective healing would one really be able to do with Rejuv and HT? How does this compare to merely popping Tranquility? Reasonably, you're probably giving up far more than you are gaining. Within a 45 second window, Ultraxion's damage would increase, probably twice, and your effective healing has to keep at least 2 DPS and yourself alive in order to justify using it at all.

On the reverse, how much damage would a Paladin lose using Holy Prism? If they lose damage at all, we don't know, but I imagine it is a DPS loss. How much effective healing would it provide? It'll probably provide less effective healing than what a Balance Druid could, but the DPS cost would be significantly lower.

HotW carries a significant cost with it. Giving up all DPS for an extended period of time is huge. It's the same reason why Nature's Swiftness is far superior to Cenarion Ward -- they might have the same effective healing, but CW requires two GCDs every minnute, NS only requires one. HotW isn't in a vacuum either, compared against every other situational utility that you could bring to a raid, it just falls impossibly short. It can't compete with every other option out there because it has such an astronomical cost associated with it.

Graylo said...

I have two responses to your IS comments.

1) It seems that you main objection to IS is how it's applied, and I conceded in my post that it wasn't perfect in that regard. I agree that quick switches may be an issue in this design, but I also think fixable while still maintaining the spirit of the change.

2) Nothing about the new Insect Swarm says we can't Multi-DoT or do Multi-target DPS. All it says is that the second and third DoT won't do as much damage as the first one because they won't benefit from IS. As long as the second and third DoT do more DpET then a nuke, Multi DoTing is still a good idea especially when you factor Shooting Stars into the equation.

We will have to get numbers before we know how well multi-doting will compete with things like blade flurry and cleave, but the general design of the new IS doesn't mean that we won't be able to.

Three more responses regarding your HotW Comments:

1) Comparing the effectiveness HotW to Tranq is irrelevant since they aren't mutually exclusive. Both combined would be more effective then either by itself.

2) You're making the wrong comparison. Trying to compare the DPS a moonkin would lose to the healing he would gain is silly since it's comparing Apples to Oranges.

It is obviously a huge personal DPS loss for a moonkin to stop DPSing and heal for 45 seconds and I also agree that a HotW healer is unlikely to be as effective as a "real" healer, but I think you are missing my point. Let me try and explain it using an example.

Story) It’s a 6 minute fight that requires heavy healing for the last 45sec of the fight. You determine that you need 5 healers to get through that section but for most of the fight you could easily survive with 4.

Option A) Bring 4 "real" healers and have a HotW moonkin help in the last 45 seconds. Sure the Moonkin loses a lot of DPS, but any reasonable DPS option should be able to do more damage over 6minutes then any Moonkin can do over 45sec. It is a big loss for the moonkin but it's a bigger overall gain for the raid assuming the moonkin can keep his target up.

Option B) Bring 5 "real" healers but have one or more be a resto druid. A resto druid could then pop HotW sometime prior to the heavy healing phase and add some DPS while other healers cover his assignment. The raid doesn't lose anything because they still have 5 healers for the heavy phase, and they get some added DPS when the healing requirements aren't as great. It's a net gain for the raid.

This is all assuming that HotW allows druids to have some significant output in the temporary role.

3) Finally, I no way am I suggesting that HotW is this great talent that is so awesome and a must have for any raid. I think it’s mediocre at best.

However, I do think a lot of moonkin look at it and think "If I wanted to heal I would be resto" and dismiss it out of hand because DPSers shouldn't be healing. And I agree with that as a moonkin, but it ignores the potential benefit that this talent has for healers and off tanks in their down time. That was my main point.

Heezashee said...

i know it might seem a bit simplistic, but could be really elegant as a solution...

right now, only moonkins can be in moonkin form and restos have no form unless they pop tree cooldown...

but all druids can go bear and kitty no matter what their spec is...

so why not just simply give all druids all forms and just make the specs decide how strong they are at them? then we wouldnt need heart of the wild and they could come up with a better talent to replace it...

it looks like all druids will be getting a version of Killer Instinct that makes their main stat 100% convert to the other roles' stats, and HotW just adds another 50% of the stat conversion? just roll all this into all forms and make them cooldowns....ie, say you're a moonkin spec, and you wanna go bear, you pop bear and it's on a 4 minute cooldown and get both the benefits of KillInst and HotW, then you still have 2 cooldowns left to use, Kitty and Tree. That would be simpler and easier to understand than splitting them out as a spell and a talent separately like it seems to be deisigned for MoP now...

I'd still maintain I'd like 3 new forms in the last tier of talents though.

Berdache said...

Must admit I dont like the new IS myself, it is going to a pain in any fight where we need to single target a series of adds down or one where we need to constantly change target. In pve I suppose it doesnt really matter because you would hope that things would balance out but I dont like the idea of having to waste a gcd every minute on a spell that does nothing but maintain the status quo.

Where IS is likely to be horrible is PVP where it would cripple Moonkins if it were purgable and you definitely switch targets all the time

paperclip said...

I like your take, including the caveats, on IS. This could give them the knob to adjust the power of all our spells without tilting things. I think it is a little ironic that we have to give up our trees to get soul of the forest. I think they should make force of nature a baseline balance ability and put a new talent in its place. Perhaps, as you suggest, an AoE related one. Of course we don’t know the details of the new spec dependent trees yet, so maybe they are much cooler than they seem. I think having the trees with a complimentary function (e.g. balance trees which heal, or resto trees which draw agro) would make an interesting talent. Perhaps one which a raiding moonkin would easily discount, but certainly something that could have uses for some druids in some situations. I think trying to make all the talents attractive to all druids for all activities acts to water down options for some cool effects. I was sad to see the tree form go (the graphic, not the mechanic), and will be sadder if the treants become an suboptimal choice. My only remaining tree companion will be poor Withers following me around.

Jabari said...

One IS concern I just thought of:

With it affecting all damage, it's going to be VERY tricky to balance Starfall. Tough to make it not OP against single targets (with IS) while at the same time not making it underpowered against groups (where it _should_ shine).

Aside: In the current patch (and perhaps going forward), I think that Starsurge needs a massive buff, 20% at least, and that might not be enough. There's absolutely no reason at all for my Enhancement Shaman to sim out 25% higher than my Moonkin (on a "patchwerk") at an identical ilvl.