Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blizzard has been teasing us with patch 4.3 information for weeks now, and this last weekend we finely got some class specific information. If you haven't seen it already Blizzard released the T13 set-bonuses for all classes and specs. Here are the new moonkin set-bonuses:

  • Balance, 2P -- Insect Swarm increases all damage done by your Starfire, Starsurge, and Wrath spells against that target by 3%.

  • Balance, 4P -- Starsurge generates 100% extra Lunar or Solar energy while Eclipse is not active
A Quick Look Back:

Before I give my impressions of the new set-bonuses, I want to take a look back at the T12 set-bonuses as a basis for comparison. Using WrathCalcs and SimulationCraft I took a quick look at the old set bonuses to see how they turned out.

With the 2T12 set-bonus, my estimate was horribly wrong because the Burning Trents didn't behave at all like our Force of Nature trents. As it turned out the Burning Trents just stood around throwing fireballs at the boss and increased our DPS by somewhere between 1.6% and 1.8%. That's not completely horrible, but I think set bonuses should be between 2% and 3% in general.

For the 4T12 set-bonus I'm getting conflicting results from SimulationCraft and WarthCalcs. The SimulationCraft results agree with my original estimate of a 2.1% DPS increase, but WrathCalcs is estimating the DPS increase between 3.3% and 3.5%. I tend to agree with the SimulationCraft numbers and not just because they match my original estimate. Eclipse energy and how it relates to our rotation results in a fairly fuzzy math equation. Because of procs like Shooting Stars and Euphoria we don't always know what type of impact extra energy will have and that makes it difficult to estimate what kind of impact a set bonus like 4T12 will have. In this type of situation, a simulation tool like SimulationCraft has an advantage over a formulation tool like WrathCalcs, because the simulation tool plays through the actual rotation with random events like a player would.

In short, the DPS increase from 2T12 turned out to be worth about around 1.7% and 4T12 DPS increase turned out to be around 2.1%.

2T13 - Insect Swarm Boosting Nukes

The 2T13 set-bonus is a simple, straight forward set bonus. Insect Swarm is a high DPET spell that we want to have up 100% of the time, and the buff includes all three of our nukes that we would use as filler. This makes estimating the impact of this set bonus fairly easy using SimulationCraft and game data.

I looked at several World of Logs parses from several different moonkin using only boss kills from Firelands as my data set. In that data the damage from our three Nukes represented about 50% of the moonkin's overall damage. If we assume that Insect Swarm is up 100% of the time, then this set bonus would result in a 1.4% to 1.5% DPS increase. In Patchwerk style fights that percentage goes up to about 1.8%, but there hasn't been a true Patchwerk style fight since Patchwerk.

It's also, important to note that Insect Swarm isn't going to be up 100% of the time. We can expect to lose a little bit of the buff, because some of the nukes will hit when Insect Swarm slips off the target. So, in reality my original estimate is a little optimistic. The actual DPS increase will probably be a little bit lower between 1.3% and 1.4%. With that in mind I think this set bonus is a little weak, but could easily be fixed by changing the buff to 4% or 5% instead of 3%.

4T13 - Double Energy for Starsurge

My first gut impression of this set-bonus is that I don't like it. I don't like basing my evaluation entirely on a gut reaction, but set-bonuses like this are incredibly hard to evaluate without a tool like SimulationCraft, and unfortunately it has not been updated yet to include the new tier set-bonuses. Here is my reasoning.

I don't have a problem with a set-bonus affecting how we generate energy. The 4T12 set-bonus showed that it can be done effectively with solid results. My concern is that because Starsurge as the driver of this set-bonus, that this set-bonus will just be a weak version of our current 4T12 set bonus and limit overall Moonkin DPS..

The problem with a set-bonus like this is that it's only effective when you are not in Eclipse. Because of Euphoria and the energy caps we are guaranteed to be in Eclipse less then 50% of the time and are only going to be able to take advantage of a set bonus like this for a short period of time during each Eclipse transition. For buffs like Euphoria and the 4T12 set-bonus this is a problem that can be managed, because a moonkin is guaranteed to cast several Starfires or Wraths during the time that Eclipse is down. As a result you can adjust the amount of additional energy generated and guarantee that the buff will have an impact. For Starsurge, this is not true.

As we all know Starsurge is a cooldown based spell. It is also a moonkin's highest DPS nuke, and has significantly higher Damage per Energy then Starfire during Eclipse. This all adds up to the fact that we want to cast Starsurge on cooldown, which may or may not fall with in the small portion of the Eclipse transition where extra energy from Starsurge would be effective. This means that the benefit of the 4T13 set-bonus will be a bit random and inconsistent. It will be possible for us to go through a transition without casting Starsurge while not in Eclipse. It will also be possible for us to go through a transition where we cast two Starsurges while Eclipse is down due to Shooting Stars. I can't guess how this will balance out, but I don't like the lack of consistency.

My 4T13 Thought

While thinking about this new set-bonus I thought of a question for Blizzard. This is the third time Blizzard has used this style of buff where additional energy is only generated when Eclipse is down. Why is Blizzard being so one sided? Why can't a spell consume less energy while in Eclipse as well?

After thinking about it a little while I'm not sure if this is a good idea or not, but here is my thought.

There are two benefits to Euphoria and 4T12 buff style. First, is that they increase Eclipse uptime by reducing the number of spells a moonkin needs to cast while Eclipse is down. The second benefit is that it increased Nature's Grace uptime by speeding up the transitions between Eclipse buffs.

My thought is that Blizzard could also increase Moonkin DPS, by reducing the amount of energy consumed while in Eclipse as well as generating more energy while Eclipse is down. For example, instead of having Starsurge generate double energy when Eclipse is down, why not have Starsurge consume only 7 energy while Eclipse is up and generate 23 energy while eclipse is down?

The down side to this suggestion is that it doesn't have the Nature's Grace benefit because Starsurges during Eclipse would cause the Eclipse transition to take longer. That said, I think that the numbers could be balanced to provide a DPS increase equivalent to the 4T13 set-bonus but is more consistent and still based off of Starsurge.

These types of buffs work because they increase the uptime of Eclipse and Nature's Grace by reducing the time it takes to transition between Eclipse buffs. When applied to common spells like Wrath and Starfire it works nicely because they are spells that are used in a consistent pattern.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Molten Elementals as a Moonkin

I am not a big fan of writing strategy guides for this blog. I think that nine times out of ten, a strategy guide from a "moonkin perspective" is going to be useless. First, of all the way my guild and I do a fight might not be relevant to the strategy you and your guild use. Second, most of the time moonkin don't have to do anything special that another range DPS don't do. As a result Moonkin strategies are basically DPS strategies.

That said, as I have been researching and working on Heroic Ragnaros lately, it has become obvious that killing the Molten Elementals in phase two is a critical part of the fight. These strategies may seem obvious to some or even a lot of you, but they weren't obvious to me right off the bat. With some research and some trial and error, I recognized my mistake and started using a strategy that gave me much better results. Here is that strategy.

My Guild's Basic Strategy:

My guild is using a strategy very similar to the one outlined by the L2R Heroic Ragnaros video. Entering phase two we line up on the left side of the boss. Just seconds before he casts Molten Seeds we move to the center of the room. When the Molten Seeds explode and spawn the Molten Elementals, we DPS for a few seconds and then run to the other side of the room doing as much DPS as we can while moving. On top, this basic strategy I have an additional roll of popping Stampeding Roar every other seed spawn to help the raid move out of the way. There's nothing really exceptional about this strat. In fact, it's pretty standard, but I wanted to lay it out as a frame of reference for understanding my actions.
From here I just want to go over some of the keys to Moonkin DPS in this phase and some of the mistakes I made, in trying to put out maximum DPS.

DPS Key: Solar Eclipse

This probably goes without saying, but Solar Eclipse is the key to moonkin DPS in this phase. You want to make sure you are in Solar going into the phase, and in my experience you don't want to leave it the entire time. To be honest I didn't try transitioning to lunar and back to Solar after each set of adds die, but I don't see how there can be enough time to do so.

I start out phase one going towards solar eclipse, and spend the rest of the pahse doing as much DPS as I can while avoiding damage, This has generally put me in a good spot for phase two. Generally I ended phase one just starting a solar eclipse or just a few casts short of solar. Those extra casts can easily be completed in the transition phase. Once in solar eclipse I only cast AoE, DoTs and Starfire. That said, you may want to cast a single Starsurge each cast of Molten Seeds depending on your glyph choice but I will go into that in a minute.

Glyphs: Wrath vs Starsurge

I'm sure there will be a little debate on this topic, so I'm not going to give a definite choice here. That said I favor the Glyph of Wrath over the Glyph of Starsurge. Here is why.

Ragnaros doesn't have a lot of situations with multiple targets that make Glyph of Starsurge and obvious choice. Phase one is single target, the transition phases end quickly, Phase three and four has multiple targets but the meteors don't take much damage until debuffed in phase four. The only argument I can see for Glyph of Starsurge is that it makes the Molten Elementals in phase two a little easier.

The Molten Seeds timer in phase two is exactly a minute. Since Starfall's cooldown is also a minute without the Glyph of Starsurge then Starfall should be up for every pack of Molten Elementals. However, in practical terms this isn't 100% true since you won't necessarily cast Starfall right has it comes off cooldown each time. Casting a single Starsurge each Molten Elemental spawn would reduce Starfall's cooldown to 55 seconds and shouldn't push you out of Solar Eclipse. This would guarantee that Starfall would be up for every spawning of the elementals.

That said I don't think it's necessary. The elementals don't die immediately. As long as you are casting Starfall relatively quickly it should be up for at least 3 or 4 spawns of the Molten Elementals. If you are going beyond 3 or 4 spawns it's probably a wipe anyway. Besides that Glyph of Wrath is just a better choice in a single target situation which is the case in most of the phases.

Glyph of Typhoon: I want to make a quick comment here. Nine times out of Ten you are not going to want to use the Glyph of Typhoon because you want to be able to knock back the adds during the Transition phases. That said, if you can get away with not needing to knock back during the transition phases then using the Glyph of Typhoon during this fight could help a tiny bit. One of the things Glyph of typhoon does is widen the radius of your Typhoon. This makes easier for your Typhoon to hit more targets and could be a small benefit. However, I'm sure in most cases your guild would rather you have the knockback if it's needed then a slightly better chance of hitting adds with your Typhoon.

Mistake #1: Don't Place Mushrooms Early

My first mistake was trying to place the mushrooms early, before Molten Seeds was cast. My thought was that I'm standing here waiting to pop Stampeding Roar and only able to cast Starfire. It seemed like a perfect time to set the mushrooms because I didn't have anything better to do. In reality it didn't work out.

The problem with setting the mushrooms early is that their explosive radius is very small, and you don't always know where the seeds are going to be placed. This was particularly true in the second and third spawning of the elementals. If you wait, you can see where the seeds are placed and then set your mushrooms accordingly. This way you are much more likely to hit most of the Elementals and do a lot more damage.

As far as placement goes, I try and put the mushrooms a little bit head of the closest seed. You can expect the Elementals to move a little bit before you pop the mushrooms, and most of the Elementals should move into the mushrooms radius in that time.

Mistake #2: Not Precasting Hurricane

I was so concerned with getting good placement on my mushrooms I didn't even think about precasting Hurricane. However, after it was pointed out, precasting Hurricane makes a lot of sense. The Molten Elementals spawn were the Seeds spawn, so placing the Hurricane is easy. Also, by precasting the spell you will start hitting the adds as soon as they spawn getting a little of DPS out that isn't delayed by reaction time. Obviously you shouldn't shouldn't channel your Hurricane until the end, but you should be able to get a couple ticks off before you need to pop your mushrooms and move. This will be a big help to your Elemental DPS.

Mistake #3: Moving Too Far

This depends a little on where your guild desides to group up and such, but your personal positioning can have a big impact on your DPS. There are two times I want you to think about positioning in this procoess, and both revolve around your mushrooms.

The first time is when you place your mushrooms. In my experience, the farther away from a target I am the harder it is to place the mushrooms. It may just be the way I have my UI configured but placing Mushrooms at max range can be difficult due to camera angles and such, and as a result can take longer with worse results then doing at close range. Since you only need to be six yards away from the seeds to not be killed by them, when we are told to move I only go halfway to the stack up point. This allows me to place my mushrooms quickly and accurately, and I still have time to get to the group of spot.

The second time to think about your positioning is when you want to detonate your mushrooms. Wild Mushrooms will do the bulk of your DPS in this phase and being out of range will ruin your DPS if you go to far when grouping up. I try and be as close as possible to the seeds while still being under the effect of what ever shield or other damage reducing cooldown we are using.

Other thoughts:

  • Jump Casting: While running to the third stack up point after the Molten Elementals have spawned there are only two things you can do: 1. Cast Starfal and 2. Cast Typhoon. Therefore, if you don't know how to already it's a good idea to practice Jump Casting Typhoon. If you jump while running your toon will continue to move in that direction no matter where he faces. So, it's possible to jump and turn your toon back towards the elementals to cast Typhoon without stopping.

  • Finish up with Hurricane: Again, this may seem obvious but if you get to your third stack up point and there are still several adds left I would finish up with Hurricane. It gets some quick damage out without you having to worry about Cooldowns or targeting the correct mob. All you have to do is place it in the general area of the adds that are left.

  • Refresh DoTs: As a moonkin it will be hard to do a lot of DPS on Ragnaros during this fight, because you are staying in Solar Eclipse and focusing on Adds so much. That said, keeping DoTs up on Ragnaros is extremely important especially if you have the Necrotic Focus trinket. Since you are staying Solar for the entire phase, having the Mastery it provides is really important for your add DPS. This shouldn't be too hard since you have to cast just one dot every 28 seconds to maintain the buff, but make sure you don't lose sight of it in the chaos the phase.
TL-DR: The Short Version of My Strategy

Before starting phase two make sure you are in Solar Eclipse. At the start of phase two go to the first group of spot and DO NOT pre-place your mushrooms. When the raid leader calls for it move halfway to the second group of spot. Place your mushrooms slightly ahead of the closest Seed and then move to the second group of spot. You have more then enough time to do this before the seeds explode. When at second group up spot start casting Hurricane on the Seeds, and then detonate your mushrooms soon after the seeds explode and start running to the third group of spot. While running cast Starfall and jump cast Typhoon when you are almost to the third group of spot. If several adds left, cast Hurricane in their general area to finish them up. Do not leave Solar Eclipse for the entire phase.