Thursday, August 16, 2012

Nerfs and Random Stuff I Missed

The end is near and it's time for me to stop being slack and write another blog post. At this point in development the big changes have been made, but there are a lot of little things to talk about. Plus, as I prepare for the release I am discovering some things that I've missed. Lets take a look.

Nerf, Nerf, Slight Buff:

Over the last three beta builds we've seen a lot of balancing changes. Most of them nerfs, and to some this looks like the sky is falling, but really it's not. Please think back to June 25 when Ghostcrawler said:
Please note that these changes are straight DPS buffs, and we don’t think Moonkin need a buff right now, so we need to reduce overall damage (probably across the board) so that overall DPS stays the same. These nerfs may take a few builds, because we need to evaluate if these rotation changes are worth doing. However, don't be surprised when you see them (source)

Yes, that quote is from a month and a half ago and the straight DPS buffs GC was talking about was Fae Empowerment which no longer exists. However, just because they got rid of Fae Empowerment doesn't mean the nerfs weren't coming after all. When they got rid of FE they didn't revert back to the old design. They changed Euphoria so that Eclipse has a much higher uptime. They made Sunfire a separate DoT with a separate button to push. And they buffed the heck out of both Moonfire and Sunfire to make Moonkin a more DoT centric spec.

In short, those were a lot of buffs and Moonkin became a bit overpowered on the beta, and the modeling was showing that. In my opinion the best modeling available right now is coming from Simulation Craft and prior to these nerfs there were models having Moonkin Doing 141k DPS with Dream of Cenarius and 126k without it. Those are very high numbers and put Moonkin well ahead of the other classes. Moonkin needed a nerf, but the question now is if Blizzard has gone to far.

I usually put a lot of trust in the numbers produced by Simulation Craft, and that is why I'm worried that Blizzard has been a little heavy with the nerfs. Here is a link to the Simulation Craft results. You may see something different then what I'm saying, because they do get updated, but at the time of this posting Moonkin DPS in this ranking is well behind most of the DPS classes. Moonkin are doing around 100k DPS with most of the other DPS specs doing between 115k and 125k.

While these results are a bit distressing it is important to not panic and view them with the proper perspective. First its important to remember that Simulation Craft is not perfect. I have a lot of respect for the Simulation Craft developers, but with the amount of changes coming through it's not unreasonable to assume that there are some bugs in the system that skew the data. Blizzard does have it's own internal models, which they claim disagree with the Simulation Craft numbers.

At this point it's impossible to tell which model is right, but the models are really the starting point rather then the end. Models are built on assumptions. They can end up being very wrong if those assumptions prove to be incorrect, and players have been very good in the past about proving those assumptions wrong. Take the Solar Cleave rotation as an example. It wasn't anticipated by Blizzard and made all of the balancing done before the expansion useless because players didn't play in the way that Blizzard had expected.

This is the reason why it's best to balance the game around actual game data when possible. And remember Blizzard isn't shy about making changes quickly with hotfixes if one class turns out to be way overpowered or another proves to be significantly behind. Right before Cataclysm Moonkin were extremely over powered due to the DoTS and we were nerfed within a week. If the proves to be an issue this time, I trust that Blizzard will make the necessary adjustments.

Dream of Cenarius: How Did I Miss This?

  • Dream of Cenarius Nourish, Healing Touch, and Regrowth increase the damage done by your next 2 Moonfire or Sunfire casts by 100% (build 15961)
  • In Build 15972, the damage increase to Moonfire and Sunfire is being reduced to 50%.
I am embarrassed to admit that the change to Dream of Cenarius happened without me even noticing it. That said, I'm glad it's getting nerfed. My only question now is if it's enough.

The 100% version of Dream of Cenarius was extremely powerful. The Simulations done by Starfox with Simulation Craft showed that it was by far the best talent option in the Tier 6 talents. However, from a moonkin perspective it is a bad design and created a situation where players would use the talent in a way that was not intended by Blizzard.

Please remember that Tier 6 is not intended to be a DPS tier. The DPS tier is tier 4. Tier 6 is and has always been the "Hybrid" tier where Blizzard is trying to get players out of their specialized roles that we have barricaded ourselves in for the past 8 years. We could argue whether the Hybrid concept is a good idea or not. Many people including myself have argued that it's not a good idea, but the fact of the matter is Blizzard is committed to it and we have to deal with it whether we like the concept or not. So the question becomes, what should a Hybrid talent look like for players?

Ideally, a Hybrid talent is one that allows you to perform an alternate role at a reasonable strength for a limited amount of time. From a Moonkin perspective all three Tier 6 talents fit this idea of a Hybrid pretty well. Heart of the Wild is a activated buff that buffs a Moonkin's healing and tanking ability temporarily. Dream of Cenarius ideally allows a Moonkin to use a buffed heal or a resto to use an improved DoT. Nature's Vigil caused your primary role to perform the secondary role in a limited sense temporarily.

The problem with Hybrid talents, is that why would anyone ever rely on one. If you know your going to need extra healing at one point in the fight you bring an extra healer, not moonkin who can pop HotW or NV. If a Moonkin can rely on the healers to heal him up a majority of the time why would he pick up Dream of Cenarius. My point is that the need for a Hybrid talent is rare and unpredictable and as a result these talents would be useless 90% if they relied on their Hybrid ability alone to make them interesting. This is why Blizzard added the DPS aspects to the talents, to what I must admit are varying degrees of success. Nature's Vigil is the true winner in this regard, since it allows a Moonkin to heal by DPSing and Resto to DPS by healing. Adding 6% Intellect to HotW isn't an elegant way to make it useful, but it does get the job done. Dream of Cenarius is where the real mistake was made.

The 100% version of Dream of Cenarius wasn't a mistake because it was weak or wasn't useful. In fact the problem was that it was too useful and minimized Hybrid aspect of the talent. As I said above, ideally a hybrid talent should buff the secondary role temporarily, but Dream of Cenarius did the opposite. It created a situation where your secondary role buffed the primary role so that players would cast heals even if they weren't need purely to get more DPS. On top of that it turned Tier 3 into a DPS choice as well because Nature's Swiftness then became mandatory to maximize Moonkin DPS.

In short, I think the Dream of Cenarius nerf is a good thing.

The New Gem Design:

You may remember that I made a series of "MoP Wish List" posts, and in one of them I talked about changes I would like to see made to the Gem system. Though that post got a lot of positive response from readers, but I didn't see any official changes until recently when I as making the first gear list for MoP.

In the past Primary stats like Intellect and Secondary stats like Haste have been treated as equals when it comes to gem itemization. The Brillant Queen's Garnet gave 50 Int and the Quick Lightstone gave 50 Haste. In MoP, that appears to be changing with the Brilliant Pandarian Garnet providing 120 Int but the Quick Sunstone providing 240 Haste.

When I first saw this I was excited, because I thought it might change the way we consume gems, but it doesn't. All it does is shift the focus away from the Red Gem to the Yellow gem for most classes. It may make Blue and Green gems slightly more valuable as well, but I would have prefered to see a more radical change.

1 comment:

kendro1200 said...

While Blizzard has been shown to be quick to nerf things via hotfixes, they are extremely slow to buff things that are broken or undertuned.
Like you I put far more faith in simcraft than in Blizzard's internal numbers, because well frankly, their internal numbers have been shown to be wrong whenever there is a difference between community theorycrafting and Blizzard's theorycrafting. If simcraft is showing that moonkin are lagging behind, then it is more likely than not that moonkin are lagging behind, and the nerfs were too severe and were too much of a knee jerk reaction to DoC abuse.