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Shifting Perspectives: Changing Nature's Grace


Every week, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting druids and those who group with them. This week, we're heading back into the world of nasty, little over-budget talents bothering balance druids as we fight to save our 1 keys from total disaster.

It's been a harsh week in my little corner of the world. Between attempting to get up for work, falling back down to sleep for 5 more hours, taking medications that I can't even pronounce the names of, and several other unpleasant things that have been plaguing me for the past five days; there's been little time for actual coherent thought in my life. So forgive me if this week's article is a little short (I can already hear people cheering) and slightly confusing. I promise to try and make this post as readable as possible, but I am bound to ramble on incoherently at some point; though I'm not entirely sure how that's any different from normal.

Last week, Shifting Perspectives took at look at the various possibilities for changing Eclipse. This week, that trend will continue as we explore ways in which or other problem, if less vilified, talent can be adjusted. Yes, folks, I'm talking about Nature's Grace. This long-standing talent that has been a staple in balance builds since WoW was released. Much like Eclipse, Ghostcrawler has already stated that Nature's Grace is high on the list to be changed. Also like Eclipse, many people wonder why Nature's Grace hasn't already been changed as it is so problematic. While Ghostcrawler mentions it's a big deal, many people fail to understand how big of a deal Nature's Grace really is.

Nature's Grace is an awesome talent. It is a tad over-budget, but not nearly as much as Eclipse is, and, honestly, having an over-budget talent here or there isn't necessarily a terrible thing in of itself. The only thing that plagues Nature's Grace is how easily it allows for Wrath to be GCD capped. Again, though, this isn't so terrible of a prospect in of itself. After all, this is a mechanic that balance druids have been dealing with since haste was introduced into the game. Wrath ramming into GCD issues like the Titanic hitting an iceberg only became problematic when balance druids also failed to turn just a little to the left during patch 3.2. Prior to patch 3.2, Wrath was maybe only 10% of our overall damage done, so any scaling issues that it had was fairly trivial. When patch 3.2 came around and Wrath jumped from 10% of our damage, or less, to being 40% or more of our damage, the scaling issues became a real problem.


This is why Nature's Grace became a very hot topic for balance druids during patch 3.3. It was just not to be, though. Changing Nature's Grace, as Ghostcrawler and I said, is a very big deal. Not merely in terms of the DPS it provides, but also in terms of the scaling factors and the influence it has on PvP. Balance druids are notorious for our relatively low crit scaling, and quite a significant chunk of that scaling is tied into Nature's Grace. Any change or nerf to Nature's Grace is also going to have to address those scaling issues either by modifying an existing talent or by adding in a new talent -- which balance druids can hardly afford to have at this point in time. The PvP utility of Nature's Grace also cannot be ignored. Balance PvP is focused around several abilities with short cast times, predominately Wrath, but also Cyclone and Entangling Roots. While Nature's Grace isn't always up for these spells, it is still a factor to consider. The faster the druid can get these casts off, the less likely they are to be interrupted or suffer any pushback on them.

There is a very heavy burden placed upon Nature's Grace. As far as talents go, it is one of our main workhorses in terms of raw DPS output and crit scaling. Changing it isn't a simple matter, but the fact remains that it is a talent that simply cannot remain as it is today. At least, of course, if Wrath is also to remain as it is. Although we have been promised that stat scaling will be significantly less cumbersome in Cataclysm, if both Wrath and Nature's Grace remain as they are, then the soft cap on haste for Wrath would still remain far too low. Something has to be changed, and Nature's Grace is a much easier target for this than Wrath. How then to change it? Here are the most common suggestions that I've seen:

Nerf the haste effect from 20% to 10%.

Pros:
  • Significantly reduces the soft cap for Wrath to a more manageable level.
  • Retains some of the core functionality of the talent.
  • Easy to make, balance around, off-set, and implement.
Cons:
  • Wrath would still be haste capped in special circumstances such as Heroism.
  • Slightly hinders balance druid PvP.
Increase Wrath's crit chance instead of haste.

Pros:
  • Virtually eliminates the soft cap for Wrath.
  • Retains the basic functions of the talent.
  • Feeds into itself similar to how the current talent functions.
Cons:
  • Introduces the concept of a Wrath crit cap
  • Reduced effectiveness of Nature's Grace in PvP for Wrath casting.
  • Makes the talent function awkwardly by effecting different spells differently.
Increase Wrath's damage instead of haste.

Pros:
  • Virtually eliminates the soft cap for Wrath.
  • Retains the basic functions of the talent.
  • Creates a more predictable damage boost for balance PvP
Cons:
  • Scaling modifier would not integrate well with existing talents.
  • Does not 'feed upon itself' for Wrath as it does for Starfire.
  • Makes the talent function awkwardly by effecting different spells differently.
Conclusion(?):

There isn't really a cut-and-dry method for altering Nature's Grace. Too much of changing this talent depends on other factors in order for any concrete, "this is clearly the best solution" method to be laid out. Any of those three options are certainly viable to a degree, as are many of the others that are floating about the internet. On the sake of principle, I generally agree with taking the easiest solution which would be to merely make a flat nerf to Nature's Grace functionality to be the best approach. Beyond the simplicity of the change, the other two have a few glaring flaws within them that I don't particularly care for.

To start with, having Nature's Grace increase Wrath's critical strike chance causes additional crit scaling issues more so than it solves them. Wrath currently scales fairly well with crit, but a majority of that is due to the current nature of Nature's Grace (and, yes, even sick I can make a few good funnies.) In all actuality, Wrath scales slightly better than Starfire with haste because of how talents such as Starlight Wrath function. Since more haste, especially multiplicatively stacking haste, yields a higher return than less haste, spells with shorter cast times benefit more from flat cast time reductions of equal value than longer cast times. The only reason that Wrath's superior scaling isn't more obvious is because it is currently too easy to haste cap the spell via Nature's Grace. Removing that scaling point would certainly do wonders for Wrath's haste scaling, but its crit scaling would need to be looked at.

Which brings up the second major issues with making that change. Crit holds a significantly lower value for Wrath than haste does. In order for the damage increase of Nature's Grace to remain fairly constant across both Wrath and Starfire, the increase to Wrath's crit chance would have to be in the range of 30 - 35%. The reason for there being a range is due to how the talent scales within itself at various gear levels. For a majority of the time, the effect would have to be at 35% in order to equalize the damage, however once you hit a level of gearing similar to ICC, the scale slides closer to 30%. The inability for the talent to retain a paltry damage increase is only one part of the issue - the other being that it brings in the chance of crit capping Wrath. Balance druids are already concerned about crit capping Starfire with a 40% increase to crit chance during Eclipse, and, honestly, it was a concern even at 30% as well. Having the potential to crit cap two of our spells is not good juju and really screws over the scaling system, not to mention it is something that Blizzard is hoping to avoid in the next expansion.

For the change to increase Wrath's raw damage via a modifier on Nature's Grace instead of haste, the issue is simply one of such increases generally not playing well with each other. Although it could potentially be coded differently, it is most probable that the effect would function similar to the Eclipse buff and thus be additive with both Eclipse and Moonfury. Considering those factors, the effect would also have to boarder into the 30 - 35% range, though leaning closer to the 30% mark if I'm recalling the math correctly. Running around with a Wrath that has a 80 - 85% modifier tacked onto it isn't exactly fun game design as it makes the spell seem weak, and Nature's Grace feel 'boring' which is another factor that Blizzard is trying to avoid. Stacking massive amounts of damage multipliers simply doesn't make for good game design, they become convoluted within damage calculations and scaling. While they are generally a bit easier to adjust, a talent such as Nature's Grace shouldn't be the target of a fundamental balancing point for balance druids.

In the end, I still think that the simple solution of a flat nerf to Nature's Grace, while tweaking existing talents or adding in a new one to equalize out the damage, is probably the best option and the most likely one that Blizzard is to take; there really isn't any means of knowing at this point. When it comes to Nature's Grace, there are simply too many factors at play to predict exactly where the foot should fall. Perhaps the best method is to merely leave Nature's Grace alone and abandon Wrath for balance PvE, perhaps Nature's Grace should see sweeping changes that drastically alters its function. With Nature's Grace, the code word of the day is always going to be perhaps.


Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of truth, beauty, and insight concerning the druid class. Sometimes it finds the latter, or something good enough for government work. Whether you're a Bear, Cat, Moonkin, Tree, or stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny on druid changes in patch 3.3, a look at the disappearance of the bear tank, and thoughts on why you should be playing the class (or why not).

Filed under: Druid, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives

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