Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tier 4 Updates: Beta Build 15589

According to MMO Champion there is a new beta build on the way, and if MMO Champion's datamining is correct it has a lot of changes for all of the classes. Most of the druid changes were for Feral and Restoration, and there aren't many that significantly affect Balance. Who knows what this means about the status of Moonkin development, but lets take a look at the few bits of new information that we do have.

Incarnation v3:

It should come to no one's surprise that Chosen of Elune (the moonkin portion of Incarnation) has been changed once again. This is a good thing because version two turned out to be pretty bad and only became worse at higher levels of gear. Now we have to decide if this new version is an improvement. Here is what MMO Champion has on the change.

Incarnation: Chosen of Elune - No longer doubles Solar and Lunar power generation. Instead increases all Arcane and Nature damage done while in Eclipse by ?%

There is no official word about the value of "?%", but the number I've heard is 25%. My first impression of this new version is that it's boring, but it's definitely an improvement. The big advantage that it has over the previous versions is that it can work with Celestial Alignment, and it seems that they should work extremely well together.

While my first impression is good, there are still several open questions (beyond the value for "?%") that will ultimately decide the fate of this ability. Is the damage increase additive or multiplicative with the Eclipse bonus? How does it affect DoT damage? Is it dynamic or will DoTs hold the buff for their duration? How will it relate to our other tier 4 options Soul of the Forest and Force of Nature? We won't know the answer to these questions until we can test it on the servers, but I have made some assumptions and built a model to try and calculate some values.

Theoretically, Chosen of Elune should be used in Lunar Eclipse with 100 energy, and Celestial Alignment should be used as soon as you hit 0 energy. This should maximize the buff, and minimize the amount of energy wasted when CA is used. In my model I have assumed that the bonus is 25%, that the buff is multiplicative with Eclipse, and that it affects DoT damage dynamically. I've also run the model with a couple different casting patterns, but I always started at zero energy. When started my rotation going towards Lunar Eclipse, Chosen of Elune provided a 2.61% dps increase at a lower level of gear and a 2.32% increase at a higher gear level.

** Quick Disclaimer: I admit that my simulator is fairly primitive and could contain errors. I don't trust these numbers 100%, but I don't have an obvious reason to doubt them either.

I was surprised by this valuation for a couple of reasons. First, my napkin math suggested that that the DPS increase should be closer to 4% when you combine CoE and CA. This is partially due to me treating the buff as a dynamic buff with regards to the DoTs. However, it's also due to slightly reduced DoT uptime when you don't use CA right away. Second, I expected CoE to scale better with a higher level of gear, but the truth is that it scales very poorly with haste. If you use CoE with CA it is petty much impossible to get to a new eclipse after CA runs out. As a result, increased haste doesn't have much of an impact on how many spells are buffed by Chosen of Elune.

The final question is how does it compare to our other tier 4 options Soul of the Forest and Force of Nature? At this point I would say that it doesn't compare well. At lower levels of gear my simulator is estimating the value of Soul of the Forest at around a 3.3% DPS increase, and it scales well with gear increasing the gain to 4.4% at higher levels of gear. If these versions go live, SotF will be the standard talent choice from the tier 4 talents in most fights. That doesn't mean a cooldown can't be better in the right situation, but that begs the question of how do CoE and Force of Nature relate to each other? As cooldowns, are they so similar to each other that the choice between the two is more of math equation then an actual choice? That will be difficult to tell until we can see the DPS potential of FoN at level 90 and see the fights that might require a cooldown, but I think there is some reason to be concerned.

To sum this all up, this new version of Incarnation is definitely an improvement over the older versions. That said, I still expect SotF to be the primary choice, and the usefulness of the new Incarnation will ultimately be determined by how it relates to Force of Nature.

More Trees:

Speaking of Force of Nature, it was changed as well. According to MMO Champion the duration of the trents is being doubled from 30 seconds to 60 seconds. This could be a straight buff to the ability since I don't see any indication that the Trents damage has changed, but I'm guessing that there is another reason behind this change.

As I indicated above there is a real worry that Incarnation and Force of Nature are too similar to each other as talents and this change may be intended to differentiate them. With a 60 second duration, FoN would become the "sustained cooldown" that I talked about in the past. Assuming that the trents damage is solid this could differentiate the two cooldowns nicely. FoN would be good for single target, extended burn phases like phase 3 on heroic Ragnaros. Chosen of Elune would become the burstier option with just 30 second duration and would also be more useful when you need to buff AoE output. It's too early to say anything definitive, but I like the FoN change at this point.

Glyph Feedback:

This is completely unrelated to the recent beta changes, but I sent some moonkin glyph feedback to Blizzard a week ago and I thought you might be interested in what I had to say.

While writing yesterdays blog post I thought a lot about glyphs and thought you might be interested in a detailed review of the glyphs currently in Beta from a moonkin perspective. The short version is that there isn't a whole lot of choice for PvE moonkin in the terms of glyphs. The top three choices are obvious and will likely be used 99% of the time. The other options are either useless in PvE or extremely situational. There really needs to be some additional options for PvE moonkin to have a choice and I have made a few suggestions at the bottom.

Glyphs I would use 99% of the time:

Glyph of Rebirth - Awesome glyph that is mandatory in PvE. Don't change a thing other then possibly baking it into the spell.

Glyph of the Moonbeast - A nice glyph but is just a convenience and offers no real utility. Shifting to heal in PvE really isn't that big of a deal since casting a spell does it automatically. This glyph is probably a lot more significant in Arena and 5 mans.

Glyph of Stampede - A nice glyph. Again it s a little more of a convenience then a utility, but Stampeding Roar is probably more regularly useful in a raid then self healing.

Very low use Glyphs:

Glyph of Hurricane - An ok glyph, but it is usually pointless even when a slow is useful. The biggest thing hurting Glyph of Hurricane is that it is just a 50% slow. If a group of mobs really needs to be slowed some one will be using the 70% slow which makes GoH irrelevant.

Glyph of Innervate - It's a little hard to judge this one until we know the mana situation at level 90, but I doubt this one will be all that useful. As a moonkin, if I need mana I'm going to save my innervate for myself 99% of the time. If I don't need to save innervate for myself then the 10% mana I would get from casting it on someone else is likely inconsequential.

Glyph of Stampeding Roar - I can see how this glyph would be very useful in the right situation. My only issue with it is that as for moonkin it pretty much requires that Glyph of Stampede be used as well. If used on its own then use of Stampeding Roar would have to be a planned, and even then it would take the moonkin out of DPS for several seconds while shifting, waiting for energy/rage, using the ability, and shifting back.

Glyph of Master Shapeshifter - Why is this a major glyph? It doesn't do anything interesting and conceptually it is much closer to Glyph of the Wild then any other glyph. It should be a minor glyph; also it should be titled Glyph of the Master Shapeshifter. It sounds a little strange with the current title.

Glyph of Entangling Roots - From my PvE perspective reducing the cast time of Entangling Roots by 0.2 seconds is insignificant. I liked this glyph when it made roots instant cast, but I'm assuming that caused issues else where and won't be changed back.

PvP Glyphs:

Glyph of Barkskin - A 25% reduction in the chance to be critically hit is almost entirely useless in PvE. The only possibility I can see is a moonkin might need it if he pops Heart of the Wild to emergency tank and be crit immune, but I view that situation so unlikely that it’s not really worth considering.

Glyph of Cyclone - I've used Cyclone in only one fight in three expansions of raiding and even in that one situation having an extra 4 yards wasn't that helpful.

Glyph of Nature's Grasp - Like Cyclone I've used Nature's Grasp in only one boss fight in 3 expansions. It's not a realistic choice for PvE

Glyph of Solar Beam - In most situations where I've had to use Solar Beam in raid, the silence aspect of the spell doesn't work. If that changes, this glyph could be useful, but I don't expect it to change.

Minor Glyphs:

Glyph of Unburdened Rebirth - This is a mandatory glyph because who wants to take up a bag slot with a reagent or have to remember to repurchase them? The main question I have is, why does Rebirth still have a reagent cost? Why not get rid of it and this glyph as well? (note: this was written before the most recent beta build and this glyph is obviously no longer useful)

Glyph suggestions:

For the record, I want to say that I don't take "armchair developing" all that seriously. I realize there are things that I am not aware of that could make some of these suggestions problematic.

Starsurge Healing - Much like Glyph of Ferocious Bite, why not have a glyph that gives a moonkin ability a small self healing component? My suggestion would be to heal the caster for ~5% when ever Starsurge hits the target. It could be helpful in raids, PvP, and casual play but given how infrequently Starsurge is cast I don't think it would be overpowering in anyway.

One Mushroom - Having to place three mushrooms and detonating them is a clunky mechanic that players have been complaining about since Cata Beta. An obvious glyph would be to place three mushrooms at once. This would also benefit a moonkin's movement DPS.

Larger WM Detonation Area - Increasing WM detonation area would be very helpful in some situations. I realize that WM had a larger detonation in Cata beta and was nerfed, but considering the nerfs to WM damage output I don't think it's likely that WM will remain a primary AoE utility in MoP. Therefore, increasing the detonation area would account more for placement error then be a DPS increase.

Larger Fungal Growth Area - You would likely need to limit Wild Mushroom to just one mushroom, but I see this as a nice option especially when a hunter is not available for the group.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Why Beta isn't a Huge Deal

The Mists of Pandaria Beta is here, which is awesome for quite a few different reasons. It means that the new expansion isn't to far away (Aug or Sept if history is any indication). It's also a time when Blizzard reveals what plans they have for each class/spec and what they are trying to do to improve them. And most importantly to most people it is the first glimpse we get of all the new content from new races, new classes, new levels, and a lot of other new stuff.

The beta is an exciting time in the WoW life cycle. Everyone wants to be involved, and it sucks to be one of the people not included. I know this from experience. I never got into the WotLK Beta and I got into the Cata Beta quite late. When you’re not in the Beta if feels like there is a really cool party around the corner that you weren't invited too. For those people who are not included it can feel awful.

However, looks can be deceiving. Though the party looks awesome from the outside, you don't see the guy puking in the bathroom or the fight that breaks some furniture. In the Beta, there is a lot of cool stuff going on but it can also be frustrating. It's not all peppermint and ice cream. I'm not going to tell you that Beta sucks, because it doesn't, but I do want to give you a few reasons why you should be patient if your beta invite hasn't come yet.

Beta is Crowded:

Let’s do a little bit of simple math. At WoW peak hit had 12 million accounts. There are 754 active servers listed in WoWWiki for all regions. That means the average server would have around 16,000 accounts on it. The Beta has four servers, and over the past two weeks Blizzard has sent out over 550,000 beta invites. This means that the beta servers have on average 137,000 accounts on them. I'm making a lot of generalizations and assumptions, and I will agree that this math is not completely fair, but I do think it makes my point. Beta is crowded and probably more crowded then anything you have ever experienced in WoW before.

When I got my Beta invite I copied Graylo over as I downloaded the client. When I finally got on the server I tested mechanics for an hour or so before I took a look at any of the new content. When I finally decided to do some quests I as smacked in the face by a ton of blue name plates. There were players everywhere, and trying to quest was like pulling teeth. Mobs were tagged as soon as they spawned and the spawn rate was incredibly slow. To complete one of my quests I ended up having to form a group of 3 or 4 people and basically camp spawn locations. It literally took me an hour to complete this one quest. To be fair the others weren't that hard, but finding quest mobs in this crowded environment is difficult. When I'm questing I'm more frustrated then excited because most of the time I'm running around looking for the spawn I need rather then actually doing something.

The good news is this will slow down. Check back in a few weeks and I bet questing will be a whole lot easier after people spread themselves out a little bit and others loose interest in the beta. In this way, getting into the beta later rather then sooner could be a good thing.

So Many Bugs:

When playing on a live server, the bugs are annoying but infrequent. So, we complain about it for a little bit, find a work around, and continue on with our questing. In the Beta, the bugs can be crippling. The first big bug I experienced was the invisible quest giver. I could see the question mark on my mini map, but the NPC was there. Eventually I figured out that if I stood out side the building and moved my mouse over the area, I could target him (still without seeing him), but as soon as I moved into the room he was untargetable again. Eventually I as able to inch forward enough so that I could click him with out him disappearing but it was a big pain in the butt, and that one is fairly mild.

Here are some of the other bug issues I've experience. The first button in vehicle quests isn't hot keyed to "1", so I have to click to do the quest. There are quite a few lore cut scene quests that can only be done one at a time and have a big line waiting to do them. My personal favorite is the mobs that cause a critical WoW error every time I kill one of them. It makes it really hard to complete a quest when every time you fight a mob you get kicked out of the game.

It's important to remember that the Beta is not a polished product, and can feel choppy when your experience is interrupted by bugs and such. If this is something that frustrates you in live, then you are unlikely to enjoy Beta much since it happens much more frequently.

No Addons:

This is more of a personal pet peeve, but I find it very frustrating that I can't have addons in the beta currently. I completely understand why Blizzard has turned them off, but I've grown so used to them on the live servers that it is difficult to play without them in some cases. I'm mainly missing something that I could use to track DoTs and Starsurge with, and really those aren't huge things while questing, but I miss them. I feel like a bad without them. If you are a big addon user, you might find the Beta frustrating at this point as well.

It's Temporary:

Finally, Beta is temporary. Nothing you do in the Beta Will last. Everything you do will be deleted except for the things you learned in the process. If you are the type of player who is going for a server first level 90 toon, then the Beta experience is invaluable to you. If you are the type of player who has several alts that you will be leveling to level 90, then the Beta is just removing some of the fun you will be having later. In short, being in the Beta is a little like getting to open your Christmas presents early, but having to wrap them back up as soon as you do. You know what’s in there. There are no more surprises, but you still have to go through the motions later.


The release of the Beta is an exciting time, and if you are one of the people who hasn't been invited yet it can be very frustrating. However, let me assure you that Beta is not all cupcakes and ice cream, and getting in a little later then most is not a horrible thing. Getting in a little later means you will avoid some of the issues that a lot of testers are experiencing now and may have a more enjoyable experience later. It's also important to remember that by playing the beta you are just ruining the experience you will have later. So, not being in the Beta is frustrating, but being patient will result in you having a better experience later.

Skunkworks LF Moonkin:

Just wanted to throw this out there that an old guild of mine is looking for a Moonkin. Skunkworks is an awesome guild and I would be applying for this spot if I hadn't finally found a good raiding home. If you are looking for a new guild and have experience raiding at a high level, I would recommend that you give them a look. You can find their recruitment information here

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A View From Beta: The Little Things

The beta has been open for about two weeks now and I have been in since last Thursday. If you've been following the various forums around the internet, I doubt anything I post today will be new to you. However, I want to give a summary of some of the little things (and some not so little things), that I and others have seen in the beta.

Is Insect Swarm Gone?

One of the curious happenings of the early beta is that Insect Swarm isn't in the moonkin spell books at the moment. There is a history of Insect Swarm being bugged and not showing up in early beta, but given the overall reaction to the IS changes made and other changes seen in beta, some are speculating that Insect Swarm may be gone for good.

In case you've forgotten, the early MoP talent calculators indicated that Insect Swarm was being converted into a debuff that would increase moonkin nuke damage on a single target. Later it was modified slightly to include all damage, but at a lower rate. While I approved of the change, there are a lot of players that didn't like it for a number of reasons. Some just didn't like the idea of loosing a DoT, but others saw the new spell as pointless and uninteresting.

There has been no official word, but it now seems that Blizzard is agreeing with the second view point and is scrapping the spell entirely. Not only that, but the spell co-efficient for the three nuke spells has increased by 26% which is surprisingly close to the bonus that Insect Swarm would have provided.

Personally, I am not sad to see it go. Insect Swarm has had a long and mediocre history in the game and never really found its place. In TBC it was ok at low levels of gear, but couldn't keep up after the first tier of raiding was dropped from the rotation. In WotLK it survived a little longer, but by the time ICC rolled around it fell out of favor unless you are moving and couldn't do anything else. In Cataclysm, IS has remained a strong spell for the entire expansion, but it is so similar to Moonfire that it doesn't really add anything to the rotation other then another button to push.

Small Spell Changes:

Over the past couple of months a lot of attention has been focused larger changes to the spell like how Insect Swarm, but not as much has been focused on the smaller changes that also have a significant impact on Moonkin performance.

First, the amount of energy generated by Wrath and Starsurge has increased. Wrath now generates 15 energy (up from 13.33 in live), and Starsurge generates 20 energy (up from 15 in live). Energy generated by Starsurge is also affected by Euphoria.

Second, Starfire's cast time has been reduced to 2.7 seconds (down from 3.0 after talents on live). I did question if this was a bug when I saw it on the early versions of the talent calculator, but it is 2.7 seconds in the beta and it makes sense when you consider the energy generation changes above.

These changes primarily serve to standardize the nukes and the amount of energy per second they generate. It also causes energy to be generated round numbers and is hopefully less confusing. It's not really a big change but the overall impact is that it will shorten the Eclipse transition so that we have larger uptimes on DoTs and Nature's Grace.

Instant Eclipse Energy:

In beta, Eclipse energy is generated when the spell cast is completed rather then when it hits the target like it does on the live servers. This is a subtle change, and the reactions I've seen are a bit mixed. The detractors have sited that the travel time of Wrath and Starsurge has served as a way for moonkin to extend the Eclipse's effective uptime by casting instants like Moonfire in the small window of time when the nukes are traveling. However, that argument loses its merit when you consider some of the other changes made in beta. Namely, we are no longer going to be manually refreshing DoTs at the end of Eclipse since our nukes well be doing it for us.

I'm in favor of this change since it takes a little of the awkwardness of the rotation. It wasn't that big of a problem at lower gear levels because it was difficult to cast Starfall that was shorter then Wrath's travel time, but as the expansion progressed it became a frequent occurrence especially with temporary haste buffs from weapons, trinkets, and cooldowns. All in all there may be a couple of downsides to energy generation being instant, but I think the positives out weigh the negatives.

The Lack of Glyphs:

This has been commented on by a lot of people but it's worth saying again. There are very few good major glyph options for PvE moonkin at the moment. Glyph of Rebirth is so good that it is a required glyph for every raiding Druid, but after that the options are fairly weak. Glyph of the Moonbeast and Glyph of Stampede are the most frequent choices for the other two slots, but they are really more of a convenience and provides no real utility since I can already switch into the necessary form and use them anyway.

After those three the choices are pretty bleak. Glyph of Hurricane is nice in the right situation, but if you really need something slowed its likely that you will have something with a 70% slow being applied as well. Glyph of Innervate may be helpful, but most of the time if I need the mana I am unlikely to give the innervate away. I an also see a use for Glyph of Stampeding Roar, but probably not frequently. Other then that, the other options either have no use for moonkin or are only useful in PvP.

Creating glyphs for Balance or any DPS spec is going to be some what difficult now that they are trying to get away from the DPS boosting glyphs. However, I do think there are options that have been unexplored. For example, they could add a healing component to one of our existing spell much like they have for Glyph of Ferocious Bite. In my opinion the obvious example would be to have Starsurge heal the moonkin for 5% every time it hits.

I also find it surprising that there is not a single glyph that affects Wild Mushroom or Fungal Growth. I can think of three possibilities around these abilities alone. The most obvious is to have a glyph that allows you to place all three mushrooms at once. Another good one would be to increase the blast radius of the WM detonation. This shouldn't be over powered since WM is getting a pretty heavy nerf and really more of a correction for placement error rather then a DPS gain. Finally, why not have a glyph that extends the radius of Fungal Growth but only allows you to place one mushroom?

Lunar Shower and Movement DPS:

Lunar Shower hasn't really changed at all other then having the energy generation removed, but that lack of change is what I find most interesting. You might remember that back in May Daxxarri said that "Lunar Shower will be working differently in the future" in a post he made on the WoW forums. The interesting thing is that here we are three months later without any significant changes. So the question is did Blizzard scrap the Lunar Shower overhaul or are they still thinking about it?

Wild Mushroom UI:

This is a really small thing but it makes me happy. Now when you place your mushrooms little icons with a timer for the mushrooms appear below the player unit frame in the standard UI. It looks a lot like how totems appear in the standard UI for shaman (if I remember correctly). Hopefully this will make it easier for addon writers to build a WM counter into a standard balance addon like Balance Power Tracker. This isn't a huge issue since there are plenty of ways to track the mushrooms, but I do like it when things are consolidated into few addons.

Edit: This is apperently nothing new, and has been this way on life for some time. I guess I just use so many addons that I never noticed it before.

Thorns is Gone:

I didn't notice this until it was mentioned on the forums, but Thorns is not in the beta or on the MoP talent calculator. I'm not sure how I feel about this. For most of its life Thorns has been a pretty lack luster spell doing so little damage that it wasn't even noticed. In Cata the spell got a new life after its damage was increased at the expense of gaining a cooldown and having a shorter duration.

All things considered, I am a bit surprised to see it gone. There are several fights in Cata where it is useful, and it seems like it would be very useful in PvP. I don't know why Blizzard would want to get rid of it after people finally started using it. That said, from my perspective as a PvE player it isn't that interesting of an ability. When ever I needed it I made a macro that automatically targeted the tank and casted the spell on cooldown, so it didn't really add anything to my rotation.