Making Eclipse work
The case in point from the previous page: Eclipse needs a major overhaul, and it simply has not gotten one yet. As Lissanna has pointed out, the current changes to Eclipse are purely cosmetic. That does not mean that the core of Eclipse is completely broken. It isn't; in fact, a majority of the mastery is workable. First and foremost, the timed buff mechanic has to go. It feels very odd supporting a mechanic which only a few months ago I was staunchly against, but with the changes that have already been made, this is the system that makes the most sense (more on why in a little bit).
The reality is that Eclipse needs to be a more mobile buff. Out of all of the caster mastery mechanics, ours is the only one that isn't mobile, with perhaps the exclusion of destruction warlocks. This ends up being highly problematic as encounters become more and more mobile, forcing us to move constantly (hello, Halion phase 2.) We need to have a method in which Eclipse is not completely worthless while on the move.
Changing the damage increase to nature/arcane instead of Wrath/Starfire was a decent step in the right direction, but it simply isn't enough. Moonfire is our primary source of movement damage -- or at least it is supposed to be -- yet is only going to benefit from half of that mastery. For this reason, charges are still the best solution. There is the slight issue that using Moonfire on the go would eat up any arcane damage charges that we have, but I feel that is something that we can learn to live with or at least work around. It would suck to waste an entire Eclipse buff on nothing but Moonfire, but at least we know that we are making that choice, and we have methods of avoiding it should we choose to do so via Wild Mushroom, tricky though it may be to use.
That isn't the only change that needs to be made, though; adding charges is just the beginning. If you recall, one of the primary reasons that I was so against charges in the past was because it removed all forms of haste scaling from the Eclipse buff. The current Eclipse is nice in that, to a certain degree, you can get in a few more casts here and there with higher amounts of haste, thus allowing for the buff to be utilized to a greater effect. Using charges would remove this, which isn't something that I support due to the fact that we need to equalize scaling ratios as much as possible; however, the new Eclipse proccing mechanic naturally opens itself up to haste scaling. Given that we now use a UI bar in order to proc Eclipse, the faster that you can get casts off, the faster you can fill that little bar and get another proc. Currently, though, this scaling is a broken because there is a 15-second internal cooldown (ICD) on Eclipse procs while a druid will be able to fill the bar far faster than that. The solution, then, is to remove the ICD from Eclipse procs.
That sounds, I know, like an enormous change, and perhaps it is, but I know it is one which needs to happen; it must happen. Other mastery bonuses scale from a variety of effects, notably haste, though others scale from crit as well. Eclipse really does no such thing. With the current timer bonus, you do gain a nominal amount of haste scaling -- usually not all that much, sadly -- but really the only scaling factor is going to be from the mastery stat itself. That is poor design. Eclipse needs to scale with a variety of stats, and while in theory the current design does have this baked-in scaling, it has already been proven that druids will fill Eclipse bar far faster than 15 seconds even with nominal amounts of haste, thus making any additional haste scaling moot. Perhaps the new changes to the talent trees will fix this, but that would be a poor solution; artificially capping out of Eclipse gains just to make the mastery scale better wish haste is a terrible fix.
I am not saying that removing the ICD would not have any repercussions at all, and perhaps the buff from Eclipse would need to be readjusted in order to compensate for this. However, I am saying that Eclipse needs to have this scaling -- especially if Eclipse is to be moved to a charge-based system, which would have even less haste scaling than the current system does. Each individual proc, of course, would still need to have a cooldown attached to it to prevent a druid from merely getting the same buff over and over again, but the two buffs separately need to be able to be procced whenever a druid is able to get them.
Why focus on Eclipse?
For better or for worse, Eclipse is our primary balancing mechanic. There is simply no way to avoid this, with the way that balance druids are currently structured. It has the most scaling, it has the largest impact on our DPS and there really isn't a way in which any of that can be changed -- nor should it be changed. Balancing balance druids around the central concept of Eclipse is a great design philosophy. Doing so allows Blizzard to better adjust restoration's damage to allow them a better soloing experience or to give the more offensive PvP power while still having a mechanic exclusive to balance druids from which to balance our own damage. Not only that, but the Eclipse mechanic in and of itself is fun. It's interesting; it allows for us to switch between our spells in a somewhat dynamic rotation that is entirely different from what any other class out there has. We need to be balanced around Eclipse for that very reason; it is just that the current incarnation of Eclipse does not fit the bill.
Blizzard seems to want to force Eclipse into a longer effect when that really isn't what we should be focusing on at all. Eclipse should be a short, fast-paced, instant boost in damage that we get frequently and consume just as rapidly. Our rotation should change fluidly, it should change quickly, and we should be rotating our spells in such a way that it becomes more and more complex all the time. Now, Eclipse is more of a passive thing that's there; you get a buff for 15 seconds, you spend another 5 to 10 seconds getting the next buff, and the cycle repeats itself. The cycles themselves are rather long, encompassing around 30 or so seconds, which is a lot in an encounter that's only 5 or so minutes long. What if, instead, Eclipse was short? Imagine getting five charges off of each Eclipse proc, spending approximately 10 seconds using a buff and another five to get the next one. Imagine rapidly, fluidly alternating between both Starfire and Wrath, between arcane and nature.
Perhaps it is just me, but that feels much more exciting. I would much rather get a 10% Eclipse buff every 10 seconds than a 20% buff every 20 or so seconds. This was the original design intent of Eclipse, and this is what I would like for us to return to: back to when the design was to switch between Starfire and Wrath in short bursts rather than prolonged episodes of spamming nothing but Starfire for 20 seconds and then spamming nothing but Wrath for 20 seconds, rinse, repeat, like we have now. Frankly, this bores me. It isn't intuitive, it isn't fun, it isn't interesting. I feel like I'm playing my frost mage, only instead of hitting "1" over and over and over again, I hit "1" and "2" over and over and over again. Bring back the excitement; make balance druids a more fast-paced, reaction-based spec.
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).