Thursday, May 24, 2012

Astral Communion and Wild Mushrooms

If this wasn't a WoW blog that title might make you think that this post is about a weird new hippie religion, but if you've been paying attention to the Beta and Blue Posts lately you know that these are the two most recent topics of conversation regarding Balance druids.It's nice to have lot of attention being focused on Moonkin again, though it could have happened a slightly better time for me (I'm going on vacation next week and will be AFK). I've already posted about the possible return of Insect Swarm and Ghostcrawlers comments about managing Eclipse. So, in this post I will focus on the new ability Astral Communion and the role of Wild Mushrooms.

Astral Communion:
Astral Communion - Commune with the sun and moon, gaining 20 Lunar or Solar energy every 1 sec for 5 sec. Generates the power type most beneficial to you. 5 sec cast (Channeled).
Those of you that follow me on Twitter know that my gut reaction to Astral Communion was not good. I envisioned that it would dominate the moonkin rotation unless it had some limitation like a cooldown or that it could only be used out of combat. My logic was pretty simple. Why would you cast spells for 15 seconds when you could channel Astral Communion for 5? After thinking about it with a little more perspective I realize that my judgement might have been a little hasty. Now I see some potential in the ability, but there are some pitfalls Blizzard has to be sure to avoid.

Having a way to get close to eclipse (without killing critters) before you start an encounter will be nice. It will require some timing because getting one cast preferable to starting in eclipse, but that shouldn't be two hard to manage. It's also nice that it would provide us with something to do in down time and give us a way to get to Eclipse quickly if critical phase of the fight is a about to start. My guess is that these are the intended types of uses for this ability, but I fear the unintended consequences.

My main concern is that Astral Communion could become a part of the core rotation, and I think that is something everyone (including Blizzard) wants to avoid. To do that, any ability that allows us to manage Eclipse needs to come with a trade-off as i said on Monday. Astral Communion does have a trade-off in that you can't do any damage for the 5 seconds while you are channeling Astral Communion. The question is if it's enough.

After hearing about the new ability I tried to validate my concern with an extremely simple model. It had just one nuke cast every two seconds and generated 20 energy with each cast. The first timeline had a total of 60 casts (30 with eclipse, 30 without). The second timeline had 40 eclipsed casts and 8 AC channels. The first timeline out performed the second timeline even when the Eclipsed casts did double the damage of the normal casts. This "test" was in no way definitive or scientific. It not only didn't use real spells or real numbers, but it also excluded DoTs and Nature's Grace.

My test did allay my concerns somewhat. Using Astral Communion every time you leave Eclipse doesn't appear to be an obvious DPS improvement that I thought it would be at first. That said, I wouldn't be at all surprised if a clever player found a way to turn it into a DPS increase and that has to be avoided. At this point I'm cautiously optimistic, but it needs a lot of testing.

Wild Mushrooms:
Mushrooms don't benefit from Eclipse and really it's targeted more at something you set up before targets arrive. You then use Hurricane once they're there. That's the intent, anyway, and if it's not there yet, then we'll get it there
Lets get one thing straight up front. Blizzard never designed Wild Mushrooms to be used for AoE. If you want to think back to the early days of the Cataclysm Beta, you will remember that Wild Mushroom started with a 15 yard radius and did so much damage that they were better then every other spell we had, especially when they could hit multiple targets. Blizzard reacted by both nerfing the damage and by reducing the radius to just 6 yard. When players complained, Blizzard made their intent clear by stating that they expected players to place mushrooms at spawn points or along their path (if I remember correctly). Wild Mushroom's damage was eventually buffed, but the blast radius has remained 6 yards ever since.

Obviously this wasn't enough because Wild Mushroom has been the primary source of moonkin AoE in Cataclysm along with multi-dotting. However, Blizzard has taken steps to correct this in the MoP beta. The first and most obvious change is the introduction of Astral Storm (an arcane copy of hurricane, think MF/SF). They've also buffed the spell coefficients for Hurricane and nerfed the coefficients for Wild Mushroom. However, as Murmur's pointed out on the forums and as I've said in the past, as long as Wild Mushroom is affected by only Solar Eclipse then Moonkin AoE would still center around the Solar Buff.

With this in mind, Ghostcrawler's comment is really just the final nail in the coffin for Wild Mushrooms utility as AoE, and I support this change. I like many players have not been a fan of the WM/Multi-DoT AoE rotation and will be happy to see it gone for good. Wild Mushroom may need some tweaks to make it viable as the the trap it's intended to be if it is no longer buffed by Eclipse. For example, the damage may need to go up a little bit, and I would love to see the radius increased to provide a higher margin of error. To be honest, I'm surprised it has taken them this long to make this change. Blizzard has known for months that the current form of Wild Mushroom would still cause players to favor Solar Eclipse.


Astral Communion: Cautiously Optimistic

Uneclipsed Wild Mushroom: A good change.


hercdeisel said...

The latest beta build doesn't include the mushroom nerf yet (even though it does include AC, which looks like what GC was referring to re: insect swarm's return).

GC's comment to me also seemed like they still intend to have WM as part of AoE, just when you know adds will spawn and can get a nice initial burst. It's just now (assuming they eventually do take it off of solar eclipse) they're equally effective in solar and out.

I have to say, I found mushrooms pretty fun and I wish we'd get something more interesting to channel. It was unique, very strong, and hugely satisfying to see the enormous POP! as mobs evaporated. With the new MoP targeting system, it would've been even easier and more fun to use them.

Limiting AoE to a channeled spell is kind of a let down. For some of our madness work I had to glyph hurricane for the slow because we didn't have anything reliable to put on the first couple congealing bloods that spawn...and it reminded me how terribly boring channeled AoE spells are. Even just pressing the same button more than once is can be more fun than staring into space as the channel ticks (i.e. Swipe-style aoe).

Hunter AoE is also more engaging then a channeled spell even if it is stupidly easy and overpowered. You have a trap, multi-shot, and focus regen to use during aoe. The new destro aoe model is also a lot better than our model. Yes, it involves channeled aoe, but that channeled spell interacts with other aoe abilities.

That said, the move to hurricane-only aoe matches the rest of the MoP changes moonkin have seen of shrinking the overall toolkit to make it easier to balance.

What do you make of the data mined unbalancing of Astral storm and hurricane (AS got a 10% nerf and Hurricane a 10% buff)?

Anonymous said...

> any ability that allows us to manage Eclipse needs to come with a trade-off as i said on Monday

I think that 5 seconds of dealing 0 damage is a significant trade-off.

I also disagree on the WM issue: a large amount of moonkins are taking for granted that Solar-center AoE was bad and needed to be removed, but it had its positive side by adding variety and long-term rotation planning, therefore enriching moonkin gameplay. What's the point of having two different Eclipsed states if both have the same characteristics, if there are only aesthetic differences between them? Whatever its flaws, the Cata model is undobutely more interesting than sitting there, starting to channel Hurricane and then Alt+tabbing for 8 seconds to watch Youtube vids while the adds die. Having to be in either Eclipse to deal more AoE damage is at least something but not really a serious rotational concern.

To sum it up: shrooms are fun, Hurricane is not.

Teranin said...

Astral communion just became a 7s duration instead of 5. No mention of a cooldown yet though.

Unknown said...

Personally I'd like to see Mushrooms disappear from PVE Rotation, have never been a fan of the mechanic, although it's PVP use/potential is fantastic.