Why does balance need synergy
Why does balance need synergy? The short answer is, it doesn't. Balance druids do not need to have synergy injected into their rotation, talents or spells in order to make them more complex or interesting; however, synergy is a method by which complexity can be added into the rotation. It is debatable whether or not the balance rotation needs to be more complex; I think that it does, but anyone is free to disagree with me. My current issue with the balance rotation is this: Eclipse is the sole extent of our complexity, but in all honesty, that is true of today as well. We do not have anything special -- no talents, no strange spells such as Haunt -- that changes up our rotation in any way or really makes us think about what we need to cast next. There is nothing but Eclipse. Today's version of Eclipse has that RNG aspect, and thus, it requires a slightly higher amount of focus. There isn't that same value of RNG in the beta version of Eclipse as what we see today; it is far too mathematical for that. This is OK; there isn't anything wrong with that, and I enjoy the new Eclipse mechanic -- but as a whole, the rotation needs just a little something more.
For some people, the solution to this issue is to somehow make our DoTs more vital within our rotation. As far as I am concerned, this would be a good means to fix it -- but how is just as important. All in all, it is more a matter of how the proc integrates itself within the rotation. For example, there have been quite a few people who have suggested that either Insect Swarm or Moonfire ticks should have a chance to proc an instant Starfire, an idea that has some pros and cons. On the upside, this effect is pretty much useful during a majority of our rotation -- you would want it during a Lunar Eclipse proc, you would want it while trying to proc a Solar Eclipse, and you'd want it during a Solar Eclipse proc. The only time you wouldn't make use of it would be when you are working towards a Lunar Eclipse proc, which is only a time frame of about 12 or so seconds, give or take. In some sense, it scales with haste, given that haste allows DoTs to tick faster, yet it also devalues haste to a degree, since the spell is instant. The largest issue with this solution, in my opinion, is that it really doesn't add all that much complexity to the rotation itself. Such an effect would generally need to either have a fairly low chance to proc -- causing there to not be enough procs for the effect to be meaningful -- or to have a higher chance to proc but a longish internal cooldown -- which would make it far too predictable. In either method, the effect on the rotation itself is minimal, and there really isn't any part that encourages fast reaction time or solid game play. Players who used their procs faster than other players wouldn't really gain any benefit.
Another way of adding complexity might be allowing DoT ticks to influence the Eclipse bar. Although the effects would have to be calculated out -- and as much as it saddens me, I haven't yet had enough time to play around with this mechanic to do any solid theorycrafting -- it could theoretically slightly change the time differences between Eclipse procs. I know that in such a system, the DoTs would have to tick for different values of Eclipse -- possibly having Insect Swarm at 1 per tick and Moonfire at 2 per tick -- but in either system, one side is going to be influenced more heavily than others. That is to say, if both granted 1 Eclipse, then the DoTs would always tick in favor of shifting towards Lunar, given than Insect Swarm ticks more frequently than Moonfire; in the other system, the scale would probably shift more towards the Solar side very insignificantly, or the two would just cancel each other out. Still, it might be possible to develop a more thoughtful approach to our rotation and DoT uptime by letting Moonfire drop during Lunar procs so Insect Swarm can slightly extend the duration -- or it could end up having no real impact at all. Again, I haven't gotten in enough testing to see.
Those are but two examples of synergy, and neither is all that necessary. Complexity can be added to the balance rotation without the need of additional synergy between our spells and without the need of synergy found in our DoTs.
Solutions without synergy
Synergy is not the end-all and be-all of rotational complexity. Affliction, as an example, doesn't really have a high amount of synergy between all of its abilities, yet it is often cited as being a highly complex rotation -- the same is true for feral, as well. Complexity can merely be a function of how ability cooldowns line up. When you have multiple abilities, such as DoTs or spells with cooldowns, that all must be used but all have different timers that do not align predictably, you create a very complex rotation of juggling. Balance really doesn't have much juggling complexity, either. We watch two DoTs that have similar durations, so they are virtually always used one right after the other, and we have one spell with a moderate cooldown that has to be watched as well; other than that, all we watch out for is Eclipse. In both of these aspects, something could be changed.
One solution to juggling complexity is to tweak the duration of Insect Swarm and/or Moonfire, and/or to tweak the cooldown on Starsurge. Creating more friction between the time when our abilities have to be used means more attention has to be put into watching various timers. Messing with the cooldown of Starsurge is perhaps the only iffy subject, given that Starsurge isn't just a raw damaging ability but also a knockdown effect that can be used to hinder melee and interrupt spellcasting -- effectively operating as another "weak" interrupt similar to Typhoon -- so changing it can have a serious impact on PvP matters. Changing either of the durations of our DoTs would be nice, but honestly, it wouldn't have that drastic of an effect on how we operate.
Eclipse is a matter in which there is a lot of room for growth. There are loads of ways in which Eclipse could be tweaked in order to make it more reactive or to require more babysitting. A suggestion that I've thrown out quite a number of times is to drastically reduce the time spawn between Eclipse procs and to reduce the length of Eclipse procs. This results in a higher frequency of procs, with less spell casts per proc, which would require players to switch between Wrath and Starfire more frequently than we do currently. Although this isn't exactly more complex, it does require a higher amount of focus to watch the Eclipse bar and ensure that you are planning ahead accordingly. Another solution would be to make Euphoria far more effective than it currently is. Euphoria really doesn't change the number of casts in between each Eclipse proc to that large of a degree; it does change it, but the max possible difference is very small and highly predictable. Using a mod, it wouldn't be difficult at all to know exactly how a crit changed your expected number of casts in order to reach the next Eclipse proc. While this will always be true, creating a large gap in how crits influence the Eclipse bar could add more variation to the process.
To extend further upon this idea, Starsurge really needs to be looked at again as far as Eclipse generation is concerned. It generates less Eclipse than a single non-crit Starfire and barely more than a crit Wrath. Given that currently Starsurge always moves towards the closest edge -- if used during a Lunar Eclipse proc, it would move the bar back and "extend" the duration of the Eclipse, or if used while trying to get to a Solar Eclipse proc, it would move the bar closer to reaching that edge -- there is a lot of room for Starsurge to have a more interesting impact on our rotation. As it stands, however, all Starsurge does is allow the player to get one additional Starfire cast or two additional Wrath casts off during Eclipse. Yay for predictability.
All in all, it doesn't really matter how additional complexity is added to the balance rotation as much as that it is added at all. Obviously, there are good and bad ways to go about doing so; however, that is such a murky area that I wouldn't really want to lean toward one side or the other. You might even believe that the current balance rotation is fine as it stands, which is OK too -- except you'll find that I disagree. Remember, it doesn't matter which side of this debate that you are on. What is most important is the actual feedback itself, which is why I do encourage everyone who has an opinion on the matter to leave feedback. Out of everything else, feedback is always the most important thing.
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).