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