Every Friday, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting balance druids and those who group with them. This week, we are watching a moonkin dance with a mushroom once again, mostly because it amuses me, and talking about all the recent beta goodies. Mmmm, I like goodies.
I do believe I made a promise last week that I'd discuss some Cataclysm information this week, and I intend to make good on that promise. There's certainly quite a lot of information to talk about, should you actually be a person who sleeps at a decent hour like most folks; luckily for all of you, I am not one of those people. As per usual, later into the night for most of us, Blizzard released another beta patch with a number of balance changes: a talent tree polish (a basic one, but a polish pass nonetheless) and yet another revision of Eclipse. There's actually a good deal to be excited for this time around. Now, we aren't paladins, so I wouldn't be jumping out of your chain to go running naked down the street screaming in joy ... But a little "whooo!" is appropriate.
Before we get started talking about all of the new changes, let me first mention a few things that are currently missing, bugged or simply not yet implemented. First and foremost, Eclipse in of itself does not currently work in beta. The bar works, you can shift the bar in every direction that you like, and the procs certainly work; however, the procs currently don't actually do anything. There's no bonus damage there at all, but this a bug from the mastery change when they switched over the talent trees. This actually brings up the next point: We still do not have any specialization effects as of yet, and frankly, I'm a bit at a loss as to what they might end up being. Previously, I assumed that they would merely be the old mastery effects, but looking at elemental shaman, I don't think that will be the case.
It is safe to assume that one of our mastery effects is going to be Vengeance, to help difference ourselves from other druids. Another will likely be pushback resistances, and I'd venture to guess that the old Wrath of Cenarius benefit will also be baked in there. If there will be anything else, I cannot really say. Last but certainly not least, there are still a few things missing from the talent trees -- the effects of Improved Moonkin Form still haven't been found anywhere else that I've seen, anyway -- so I still wouldn't expect this to be the last pass on the druid talent trees. Things are still very likely to change from how they stand now, so don't get too upset. With that out of the way, let's get started.
Talents, talents, talents
Where to begin with the recent talent changes? First, I suppose, is to mention that the most recent talent tree pass wasn't so much of a talent run through as it was a quick polish of the trees from their previous, highly unfinished state. When Blizzard first released the 31-point talent trees, the druid trees themselves weren't finished; there were still quite a number of talents missing that shouldn't have been missing, and overall, the organization of all three trees was rather poor. This latest beta push was mostly a correction of that, not really what most players would consider to be a talent pass. To that end, let's look at what's changed:
- Moonkin Form was added back in where Starsurge used to be, which isn't surprising. We knew this was happening; it was more a matter that Blizzard had been flirting with the idea of either Moonkin Form or Starsurge as the level 10 ability and had forgotten to fix the tree to reflect their choice.
- Earth and Moon was added back in, which again isn't all that surprising. This was one of our core utility talents, so to find that it didn't make the cut previously was a bit strange.
- Typhoon is back as well, although it seemed Typhoon was going to be made into a baseline ability; for balance druids, at least, it seems that this was not to be the case. Typhoon is also connected to Gale Winds now, which isn't terrible ... but interesting.
- Lunar Justice has been removed, which does and does not surprise me. The talent itself was a rather weak leveling talent that hadn't really worked right for any previous build, so it isn't shocking to see it gone, but it was a completely new talent that Blizzard had designed for Cataclysm, so it is a bit strange to see it cut out completely.
- Planetary Alignment, or Improved Eclipse if you prefer to call it that, has been removed as well. Given the recent change to the Eclipse mechanic itself, I'm not all that surprised to see that this talent didn't make the cut. Beyond that, it also felt awkward that we had to spend so many talent points to make our mastery effect useful. This helps cut back on that a little.
Other interesting changes:
Heart of the Wild has been moved back into the feral tree, but it's been put in tier 1, which is a huge perk for balance druids. Whether or not this talent will stay is a bit of an unknown, but I wouldn't be surprised to find it removed or changed before beta ends. As it stands now, a balance druid can get Heart of the Wild, Furor and the leather armor specialization for a grand total of 23% increase in intellect (how that would stack isn't known yet, probably multiplicatively), which is a bit much. Considering that Furor was reduced to 6% for three points, I would expect that if it isn't removed completely, Heart of the Wild will be reduced as well.
That talent tree itself is in a much better shape now that I thought it was previously. There still really isn't that much room for talent choice, but there's enough for the shorter length of the trees that I feel it's appropriate. Further, the choices that you do get are meaningful, and there actually is a choice between damage or utility now -- not only that, but there's a choice between which utility you want. I'd say it's a vast improvement over the previous incarnation of the tree, where there wasn't any real choice at all. I will say that I am sorry to Graylo, but his Perseverance spec is pretty much dead with the Heart of the Wild change.
As a demonstration of what I'm talking about, here are a few builds that will probably be commonplace if the trees remain as they are.
This PvE build gets most of the utility talents, barring Typhoon, but sacrifices those for 2/3 in Moonglow. If we'll actually need that or not, no one can really say at this point, but it might become more popular. Note that this is pretty much going to be the basic cookie-cutter build in PvE with only minor flavor differences, as it gets every DPS talent you can. What could change are the points in Genesis, Moonglow or Fungal Growth, depending what the player desires and what the raid might need. For example, Typhoon may be highly useful in a raid encounter, while Fungal Growth is not; thus, you could drop at least one point from Fungal Growth to pick up Typhoon -- or you could drop Genesis or Moonglow. If you really do need Perseverance, the only talent you can drop to get it is Heart of the Wild; as it stands, 12% intellect would be a lot to give up.
This PvP build honestly isn't much different; you just need to pick up Owlkin Frenzy instead of things like Genesis. Considering that a balance druid won't always spend time in Moonkin Form during PvP encounters, Furor is slightly optional, but there really isn't much else you can take. Heart of the Wild, though ... There simply isn't any avoiding taking that talent as things stand. In the realm of optional talents, that one certainly does not qualify. I am a bit wary about balance PvP, but we'll see how things turn out. We've gotten a bunch of really great tools such as Starsurge and Solar Beam that will go a long way in making us viable, but we still don't really have any true defensive measures and we're still squishy. I know it's comparing apples to oranges, but elemental shaman can get 16% damage reduction to all forms, and they have the same armor as we do. We get nothing.
One final note, because I'm still getting emails about it and seeing forums posts: Balance druids are not getting a Sleep spell. MMO-Champion was wrong; it parsed something incorrectly. We are not, I repeat, we are not getting Sleep. We've got more than enough CC abilities as it is.
I don't think there will ever be a discussion on balance druids that doesn't make mention of Eclipse in some form or another. Isn't it strange that a talent we've had for such a very short time given the lifespan of WoW has become the core of everything that we are? I can never really get used to it. The most recent beta push introduced the new Eclipse mechanic that Blizzard had made mention of during the last developer Twitter chat. As most of you are probably aware, since beta was released, one of the primary complaints coming from balance druids was that the revised Eclipse mechanic wasn't really all that new and it didn't address our movement issues that we've been having. It was still a strict timer to which we had to devote our lives. To counter that, the balance community has been begging, pleading for Eclipse to be a charge-based mechanic as opposed to a timer-based one, a request that Ghostcrawler (lead systems designer) has repeatedly said Blizzard will not do.
It seems that we have reached a compromise at this point. The new Eclipse functions very similarly to the old one with just a minor, yet significant, change. While Eclipse is still based upon a timer, the buff now lasts for 45 seconds but is instantly removed once you reach the middle (or 0) point on the Eclipse bar. In effect, this makes the mechanic behave similar to charges in a sense, yet at the same time, it is a still a timed buff as Blizzard wants it to be. That's a win-win, in my book.
There are caveats, as always. For example, you cannot get the same Eclipse proc twice in a row, so once you get back to the middle, you are forced to go to the other side. You can, however, retain the Eclipse buff should you choose to do that. For example, if you proc a Lunar Eclipse to buff your Arcane damage, casting Wrath will still push the Eclipse bar back toward the Lunar side of the bar, thus allowing you to technically hold out on the buff for the full 45 seconds before choosing to drop it. Whether we'll end up gaming the system in this manner, or if Blizzard will change it, is yet to be seen. I can see the potential for holding on to the Eclipse buff for as long as possible, but whether you would want to do so would depend on quite a large number of factors. More likely than not, unless it gets changed to prevent this from occurring, you will want to increase the duration for just a little bit; it's doubtful that you'll be pushing the bar all the way back to the end again. We shall see what the future holds though, after more testing can be done.
Another thing worth mentioning is that Starsurge appears to be tied to Eclipse procs in so much as they determine in which direction it will move the Eclipse bar. Naturally, Starsurge moves the bar in the Solar direction; however, once you gain an Eclipse proc, it then moves it in the opposite direction of your last proc. The exact mechanic of the spell is still being worked out -- how long it will do this, if it resets upon leaving combat, and so on -- but it's certainly an interesting mechanic that will need so looking into.
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).