A new week, a new beta patch, and a new design for the balance druid rotation (again)! There are some large changes here, as it appears the developers have scrapped a few of the new ideas that they were trying in the beta and have reverted to more of a Cataclysm-style model. All the theorycrafting on this is still being done, so some caution is in order, but I'm tentatively excited about how this is turning out.
First, here's a quick list of the new changes (thanks to Elrahd):
Moonfire and Sunfire are now two separate spells independent of Eclipse. Base damage of DoT component damage for both spells increased by 50% and duration reverted to 18 seconds.
A few months ago, I posted my initial thoughts on the balance changes and feral changes in the Mists of Pandaria beta. Now that the abilities and numbers have gone through a round of fixes and changes, I'd like to relook at some of my initial concerns and see what problems the specs are still experiencing.
Underpowered single-target rotation, overpowered AoE rotation Thankfully, this has been addressed significantly. This specific issue was touched on by Ghostcrawler in the beta class analysis thread:
Actually, is the design intention to have both Eclipses with the same damage output for single targets and AoE?
Actually, no. We're currently intending for Lunar to be slightly better at single target damage and Solar to be AoE damage. When you have time between phases or situations where you can use Astral Communion to quickly switch sides, you should be able to further optimize performance by tailoring which Eclipse you line up with which boss phases. The difference should not be significant enough, however, that in a Patchwerk-style scenario, you are compelled to only DPS in one eclipse.
As a side note, I posted incorrect information about Mushrooms. They DO count as Solar, and we think that's fine.
Of course, now we get to debate what "slightly better" means. Current theorycrafting suggests that Starfire (aka Lunar) and Hurricane (aka Solar) are about 20% better then their counterpart abilities in the other Eclipse. I agree with Graylo that this difference is probably too large and makes Eclipse-twisting feel more mandatory and less like an "optimization." Dropping this to the 5% to 10% range would still allow theorycrafters to come up with optimizations, but it wouldn't be necessary for players to use; they could ignore Astral Communion entirely and still do reasonably well.
Unfortunately, real life's caught up to me the past few weeks, so I've been out of action for a bit. Well, OK, two parts real life and one part Diablo III barbarian. Cleave. Cleave. Cleave. (Ahem.) Anyway, the barbarian's died valiantly and frequently to Infernal bees, the cough syrup has been drunk, the viruses are dead, the family's alive (or is that backwards?), and I'm back and ready to talk druid again.
First of all, check out that sweet tier 14 getup. I like it! It really fits well with druids' shapeshifting motif and is much better than the abomination that were the tier 12 and 13 sets. (Tier 11 wasn't terrible, but it made us look like Tyrael.) This is quite possibly my favorite tier set since tier 7.5 and easily my favorite headpiece of all. I do hope our shoulders end up matching, though, and I hope the red-accented set gets brightened up a bit. Of course, I like the set with jade green accents the best, which means it'll undoubtedly be for whatever spec/difficulty I'm not doing. Sigh.
Enough about looks, though; let's talk turkey. In my last post before my break, I talked about Ghostcrawler's thoughts on the balance rotation, where he felt balance druids needed something to help control their energy levels. (No, no, "Eclipse" energy. Put down the caffeinated beverages. That said, the idea of a moonkin chain-drinking Monsters is pretty funny.) I speculated about a few possible ways they could go with that, and the eventual result was pretty similar to my Energized Insect Swarm idea -- a DPS fast-forward of sorts.