Friday, March 30, 2012

The Issues with Moonkin Incarnation

Over the past week a lot of information has been pouring out of the Beta, and in all honesty I've had trouble keeping up with it all. Most of it has been small stuff, that I don't think merits it's own blog post, and there hasn't been enough small stuff yet to do a bigger post. However, there has been one tid bit that I think is big enough to get it's own post and that is the change to the Balance portion of Incarnation and how it relates to the other druid abilities.

The New Incarnation:
Balance: Chosen of Elune - Improved Moonkin Form that doubles Lunar and Solar Power generation. 3min CD
This is kind of a strange cooldown for a couple of reasons, but the biggest one is that how it helps Moonkin DPS isn't immediately obvious. What it does is speed up out Eclipse transitions which in turn increases out DPS in a lot of little ways. For example:
  1. Increase to DoT Uptime Since Moonfire and Sunfire no longer over write each other.
  2. Increased DoT uptime increases Shooting Star procs
  3. Increase Nature's Grace Uptime since we will proc Eclipse more often.
  4. Increase Starfall Uptime since Lunar Eclipse will be procced more often.
  5. Increases the Effective Uptime of Eclipse because of how the energy math works out.

The second strange thing about it is that it is kind of a "sustained DPS" cooldown, because it's not bursty at all. Most of the cooldowns in the game are shorter in duration and provide more direct DPS benefits like Elemental Mastery or Combustion. This one is spread out over 30 seconds and has several very subtle impacts on your DPS. So it's kind of a new model as far as I know.

The Issues of Incarnation:

Now that I've listed five ways in which this version of Incarnation will improve moonkin DPS, I think a lot of people would assume that this is a good ability and one we would like Blizzard to keep. Unfortunately that is not the case. Hear are the big issues.

It's Relatively Weak: When compared to Soul of the Forest it is relatively weak, which will make it a difficult talent to choose. I've built another simulator to try and value some of these talents options and the results are not good for Incarnation. In my simulator Soul of the Forest provided a 3.29% DPS boost at a lower level of tear, while Incarnation was about a percent behind at 2.32%. It's too early to place a definitive valuable on each of these abilities, but my results are similar to the other valuations I've seen. Hamlet put SotF at 3.5% and Incarnation at 2.2%. Dopefish created a simulator that put SotF at 4.47% and Incarnation at 2.45%.

While Incarnation does increase your DPS in five ways, all five are pretty small. Our DoT and Nature's Grace uptimes are already pretty high without Incarnation so there isn't a whole lot of room to improve. Plus, you will be transitioning so fast between Eclipses that the DoTs and NG will be refreshed before they fall off. Plus, the Starfall improve is limited because few of the stars will be buffed by Eclipse.

It Doesn't Play Well with Haste: As I said above, Incarnation relies on transitioning through Eclipse cycles more quickly to increase uptimes and provide a DPS boost. Haste has a similar impact on our DPS. It also helps us to transition through Eclipse cycles more quickly. This means Incarnation will scale well as we progress through the expansion. It may start out as a respectable 2% buff, but as our gear level increases that buff will shrink because Uptimes cannot be improved past 100%. It also means that Incarnation will have a limited impact during temporary haste buffs like Bloodlust.

When I increased the gear level in my simulator, Soul of the Forest increased slightly to 3.58%, but Incarnation fell dramatically to just 0.57%. Hamlet so a similar impact to increased heal in his WrathCalcs numbers.

It Doesn't Play Well with Celestial Alignment: In my opinion the biggest issue with this version of Incarnation is that we already have Celestial Alignment. Incarnation and Celestial Alignment are kind of similar in that the are both long duration cooldowns that fit that "sustained DPS cooldown" model I mentioned earlier, but they buff moonkin DPS in completely opposite ways. CA buffs our DPS by giving us an Eclipse buff and stopping the Eclipse transition. Since Incarnation increases power generation it would have absolutely no impact on DPS if triggered during CA, therefore they can't be used together. This creates a bit of an awkward situation in which we have two long duration cooldowns that can't be used at will due to their various drawbacks. In short, there just isn't room for both Celestial Alignment and Incarnation in the in the moonkin rotation without some negative interactions. As a result, if we need to choose a DPS cooldown from Tier 4, Force of Nature would be preferable since it can be used at any time and it plays well with others.


At this point, I'm convinced that this version of Incarnation is a bad talent and needs to be redesigned once again. The question is how?

The original version of the talent, that halved Eclipse power generation while in Eclipse and doubled it while Eclilpse was down, had some potential. However, it also had some drawbacks like how it reduced the uptimes of DoTs and Nature's Grace. There's also a lot of support out there for a standard DPS cooldown that increases damage by 20% for 30 seconds.

I would still like to see something in this tier that boosted AoE or Multi-Target DPS. The idea I had was a buff I called Infestation that spread Insect Swarm to all near by targets for say 15 seconds, and increasing our Hurricane or DoT damage on all of those targets by 25%.

TL-DR: This version of Incarnation is bad.


Kelvin Zevallos said...

I think the current "Incarnation - Balance" does not provide a important gameplay change. If it worked out more akin to the ToL version, empowering our spells with some sort of extra-effect, it could be much better and interesting.

I imagine "Incarnation - Balance" as a Spiritwalker-type buff, where we are allowed to cast on the move and place channeled spells anywhere without actually having to channel them.

In fact, speeding up the transitions could be a perk there to improve our damage (SotF), but does not have to be the "only" type of performance buff we should have access to (FoN).

Anonymous said...

I would love if Incarnation behaved like Tree of Life to something like:
- Your Starfall gains splash damage
- Your Mushroom spreads Sunfire to affected targets
- Allows casting Wrath and Starfire on the move
- Hurricane no longer requires channeling but gets a 10s cooldown.

Anonymous said...

good article, but man, do you ever proofread? you composed this on an ipad or some other device with autocorrect and the incorrect substitutions make it difficult to parse (eg. ilvl > heals)

Akthalion said...

I think the problem with Incarnation is that it lacks identity.

When you look at Soul of the Forest and Force of Nature, you can clearly identify the core and design behind them. Soul of the Forest focuses on an increased but steady performance while Force of Nature is all about single target burst and control.

With Incarnation, it kind of wants to be one or the other, when it really should be trying to provide its own unique advantage.

I think it would be a good idea to push for a ToL mechanic for Chosen of Elune. Something like enhancing AoE as you said, like spreading DoTs mechanics or removing channeling from Hurricane.

Another thing is that SotF and Inc should provide an additional buff to balance the talents againts FoN Entangling Roots, otherwise FoN becomes the default choice for PvP.

Faelar said...

On beta it is better than it sounds. It gives 10% spelldamage increase AND a 15% damage reduction when it is active. I am not sure of websites have updated the improved version. But with those 2 things baked in I'd say it owns the other choices.

Akthalion said...

The 10% spelldamage and 15% damage reduction is just the Moonkin bonus in Incarnation, as Incarnation replaces Moonkin for the duration. Incarnation just increases Eclipse generation.