Balance druids everywhere are currently rejoicing. Why, might you ask? Well, you see, the Eclipse energy portion of Lunar Shower has finally been removed from the Mists of Pandaria talent calculator. That it took this long is something else entirely, but that isn't even really the point.
First, I wish to express a slight personal issue with this revelation. When the Pandaria talent calculators were originally released, it was stated directly that Lunar Shower would be "working differently in the future." While I suppose accurate on the most technical levels, reverting a broken talent to the slightly less broken state that it was already in before it was made worse is not working differently.
A bit harsh? To say that Lunar Shower is a broken talent, to suggest that it was always a broken talent? Well, I would apologize or choose better language -- however, this is the case. Lunar Shower has never truly fulfilled the function it was intended to serve, to offer balance druids a mobile DPS option. In defense that the current Lunar Shower on the live servers now is broken, I don't really think I need to put forth much evidence. After all, no one specs into it. Every single guide tells players to avoid it. And there's at least a thread a week complaining about it on the official forums. The issue speaks for itself.
What then, about the old Lunar Shower (or perhaps we should call it the new, new Lunar Shower)? Even back during the early days of T11 content, when players were all crazy for Lunar Shower and talking about how awesome the talent was, it was understood that Lunar Shower itself still only accounted for maybe around 40% of our movement DPS, and that is actually a high-ball figure. Moonfire's direct damage potion is horribly low in comparison to the DoT, and it was always our DoTs that constituted the largest amount of our movement DPS, each accounting for around 30%. Now honestly, when I say that Lunar Shower was 40% of our movement DPS, what I really should be saying is that the direct damage from Moonfire was around 40% of our movement DPS. Lunar Shower itself was only about 25% of it.
Still, 25% of our totally movement DPS from a single talent -- that's not all that bad, right? Well, I suppose not, but what it does show is how weak Lunar Shower actually was. It has never been a huge contributing factor in our DPS. Never. Not even on the original Atramedes, when numerous druids did nothing but spam Sunfire for the entire encounter.
Changes are worse, not better
When you realize that Lunar Shower is actually fairly weak as a talent overall, you come to see that it cannot support our movement DPS on its own. It's a tool that assists, minimally, in the feat, but it isn't nearly enough to bear the brunt of the workload. That is the true heart of the problem with Lunar Shower, as it stands for Pandaria.
You see, Insect Swarm is a solid 30% of our movement DPS. That's being stripped away right off. That loss is a huge blow to our ability to DPS on the move, and it's coming during a time when other classes are gaining massive movement tools. When I hear the statement that "Lunar Shower will be working differently in the future," I believe it to mean that Blizzard understands that the ability cannot support our movement DPS and that it needs to be redesigned from the ground up because that is the inherent problem that the talent has. Removing the Eclipse energy gains doesn't solve any of the issues at all -- in fact, it makes them worse!
That's right, folks -- the Eclipse energy gains on Lunar Shower is a great thing for movement DPS, as it does increase the amount of DPS that Lunar Shower gives in periods of extended movement. Short bursts of movement can vary, but usually there's no difference there where you gain the energy or not. The only reason we didn't want the energy gains was because of multi-DOTing. It had nothing to do with movement, which is the core focus on this ability.
Frankly, turning Moonfire into a movement DPS option is the flaw that needs to be fixed. It is endearing that Blizzard doesn't want to give us yet another button that we have to worry about pushing, but I would rather over-clutter my bars than have to deal with a mechanic that isn't cutting it -- more so now than it ever was before.
In order for Lunar Shower to match the relative power of other movement DPS options out there, you would have to nearly triple the damage effect, a solution that is simply out of the question. If Blizzard really wants for Lunar Shower to work, though, then it has to do something more. A paltry 135% damage on Moonfire's direct damage portion isn't going to be enough. You can't merely keep boosting the damage.
Have it reduce the cast time of your next ability by 25% every time you use Moonfire while Lunar Shower is active. Have it increase the damage of your next nuke ability by some amount. Just give it something because right now it still isn't worth having.
Celestial Alignment -- not what you think
The other matter that people got all excited about was the introduction of a new cooldown called Celestial Alignment. This is a new ability being introduced exclusively to balance druids that allows you to instantly gain the damage benefits of both a Solar and Lunar Eclipse instantly. The drawback is that all of your Eclipse energy is drained away, leaving you at 0 on the bar, and you cannot generate any Eclipse energy while the effect is active, which is for 15 seconds.
Essentially, this allows for a balance druid to get the damage bonus of Eclipse without having to go through the mucked-up motions of actually getting to an Eclipse proc. I don't want to disparage this ability in any way -- it's one of the greatest changes that we've seen in a long time -- but it isn't exactly what people think. This isn't exactly a damage cooldown. It's a little bit different than that.
While Eclipse is a large portion of our damage, it isn't all of it, and the act of cycling itself is a rather large damage increase. We get Nature's Grace, we get mana, and in the next expansion, we also reset Starfall's cooldown and get the ability to stack Moonfire and Sunfire. Celestial Alignment doesn't actually proc an Eclipse, at least not from the wording, so you don't gain any of those benefits.
Without those, the damage increase that you would get from the ability would be minor at best. Instead, look at CA as an anti-gaming tool. It isn't so much for a DPS cooldown as it is a solution to druids' having to game Eclipse to be in certain positions for certain things. Stuck in a Lunar Eclipse for an AoE phase? Use Celestial Alignment, and now you have your Solar Eclipse! In a burn phase that's about to end in 10 seconds but you're about to drop Eclipse? Use Celestial Alignment. Need some PvP burst on the fly? Yup, Celestial Alignment.
In an extended DPS situation where you're able to free cast at will, Celestial Alignment doesn't really offer anything to you, but it does offer great short-term solutions to problems that can come up. For that reason, it's a great new tool.
Every week, Shifting Perspectives: Balance brings you druidic truth, beauty and insight ... from a moonkin's perspective. We'll help you level your brand new balance druid, tweak your UI and your endgame gear, analyze balance racials and abilities, and even walk you through PVP as a balance druid.