Last week, we covered the issues that moonkin were having in Cataclysm. Happily, I'm able to say that the new design for Mists of Pandaria has corrected many of the glaring issues that I identified. While numbers remain fluid, of course, there's been some large quality-of-life fixes that have made moonkin much easier to play for the newcomer. I'm afraid, however, that somethings still remain that could use a tweak.
A simplified rotation
DoT abilities reworked First, while the mechanic of Moonfire becoming Sunfire while in a Solar Eclipse remains, both spells now have separate timers and no longer overwrite each other. This means that you can cast a Moonfire before entering Solar Eclipse, then cast Sunfire (with the same button, yay) and have two DoTs ticking for damage on the target.
Second, Sunfire is now refreshed by Wrath/Starsurge casts in Solar, while Moonfire casts are refreshed by Starfire/Starsurge casts in Lunar. This simplifies uptime management considerably, since you can cast the appropriate DoT once then simply cast nukes.
Third, Insect Swarm is gone. Yes, you read that correctly -- a spell that druids have had and used since The Burning Crusade is now poof. You know what? It won't be missed all that much. Insect Swarm has always been Moonfire's annoying little brother -- you know, the one who tries to copy everything, but does so poorly? Insect Swarm was like that. Pretty much, you were using both DoTs or none, so there wasn't any compelling need to keep it separate. With the change to Moonfire/Sunfire, there wasn't any need for a third DoT.
Where it does have a significant impact, however, is movement DPS. As I had discussed previously, moonkin DPS on the move was pretty terrible, and removing Insect Swarm isn't helping any. (If Blizzard had buffed Moonfire to compensate, that'd be one thing, but it buffed the nukes instead to compensate for the loss of IS.)
Easier Eclipses As I mentioned last week, one of the most annoying things about Eclipse was the trickeration that was necessary to play efficiently. Since energy wasn't gained until your nukes arrived at the target, you had to know in advance when you get a new Eclipse so you could start casting the new correct spell. (This wasn't so bad from Solar to Lunar, but Lunar to Solar was fun.) Now, all the energy is instantly applied when you cast your Nuke (Wrath, Starfire, or Starsurge) making the switch easy to see. Of course, this means you can't squeeze out an Eclipsed instant while the last spell is on the way, either, but that's a good trade.
Energy gains were also rounded off. Wrath now generates 15 energy and Starsurge/Starfire generate 20, making it a bit easier to calculate your next Eclipse. Lastly, Nature's Grace is gone as a separate buff and simply procs as part of Eclipse as a +haste percent increase. (And the people said, "Hooray!") No more needing to fish for NG procs with Insect Swarm makes for a happy moonkin.
Starfall refreshes every Lunar Eclipse Well, you generally wanted to use Starfall during Lunar anyway, so this is nice. Unfortunately, this also makes Starfall not very interesting, as you're just going to use it whenever it comes off cooldown.
Wild Mushroom now less clicky Instead of having to click Wild Mushroom twice every time (once to bring up the targeting circle, again to place), the targeting circle now remains up when you cast the first 'shroom. This means you can place three mushrooms in four clicks, instead of six -- yes, a small change, but it makes a big difference. Why? Because now it can be cast in sync with DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. (Raise your hand if you knew that's where I was going with that. OK, now stop lying.) Unfortunately, Wild Mushroom's taken a bit of a damage hit; I'll need to do some testing to see if it's still worth using during movement.
New damage-boosting abilities
Celestial Alignment is pretty sweet, but it's not really the burst cooldown we were looking for Yes, you do a little more damage when its up because you get both DoT effects, but that's it. Your nukes or the direct damage component of moonfire doesn't hit any harder than it would in a normal Eclipse. Continuing with the "make things easier" theme, it allows you to better guarantee that you'll be in Eclipse for burst phases when necessary.
Luckily, we've got Incarnation to help out with that. Incarnation: Chosen of Elune will supercharge your Eclipse, buffing all your damage by 25% for 30 seconds. Of course, if you use it by itself, you're going to waste a good portion of the cooldown sitting out of Eclipse, so you'll want to use Celestial Alignment as soon as you leave the Eclipse state. Of course, it'll sync well with potions and trinkets as well.
If you want to keep your treants, Force of Nature is your second option. The cooldown on this one's changed several times; as of the latest build, they last 15 seconds with a 1-minute duration -- but hey, they cast Wrath now! If you want a mini-burst, these guys are the go-to, though I suspect they'll eventually lose out in overall DPS.
Of course, some fights aren't going to be bursty at all. If you'd rather have constant damage, Soul of the Forest is the final choice. It's not a very interesting talent, but it'll make the Eclipse cycle significantly faster and will likely be the best overall DPS enhancer of all three talents.
Some problems remain
PvP problems While giving moonkin some on-demand burst helps significantly, tying everything to Eclipse continues to put us as a disadvantage. Eventually, you're going to have to move the Eclipse bar, and the only way to do that is with a hard cast. Good luck with that.
Glyphs Where are they? Other than Rebirth, there's hardly any worth a slot for PvE content. I want some choices and trade-offs here!
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.