Saturday, 4 December 2010

Interview with GC

I asked the following questions via the Internode interview with Ghostcrawler. In hindsight, it seems like have room to ask more questions and I maybe should have tried to hone my points clearer. That said, the responses are definitely interesting.

What is the developer perspective on the state of the Balance Druid and what conclusions have been drawn from Beta community feedback from prominent posters?

Greg: Wow, that’s a really big question. The challenge with the Balance Druid has always been that you have two very similar types of spells, one is arcane and one is nature, but other than their spell schools they don’t have much difference going on and so encouraging druids to switch between them or use them more than once has always been a challenge. We think the new mechanic will do that, that and some of the talent tree changes we’ve added, I know several Balance Druids that are really prominent in the theory-crafting community are really excited about the potential. We may find problems along the way, there’s always PvP concerns, I know there are some mana concerns, and some spells that still don’t get used often enough but overall we’re pretty happy with the way it worked out.

While raiding as a Moonkin seems perfectly viable, do you feel that you achieved your stated goal bringing the spec into competitive PvP for

Greg: Things look good so far, competitive PvP for Cataclysm is going to be very different from what it was in Wrath of the Lich King. For starters, there’s a big emphasis on rated battlegrounds, you’re not necessarily going to have the 3v3 arena death match being the very dominant form of PvP that players are talking about all the time. Also, just by increasing the health pool so much and changing the way things like the spells work, we just think the environment is going to be different, there’ll be more chances to respond to mistakes and we think matches will be determined more by strategy and how players respond to a dynamic situation, rather than who got in that lucky first hit.

Furthermore, what is your opinion on their PvP issues such as lack of survivability, lack of depth and options and importantly the disputed usefulness of Wild Mushroom?

Greg: The Wild Mushroom is definitely a different spell and we heard a lot of the same things from Warlocks about the Demonic Circle which allows them to do short distance teleports, players were like “What is this? I’m never going to use this, it’s got too many restrictions!” and now it’s a pretty fun ability, a lot of Warlocks would admit that they can get a lot of use out of it, but it took a while for players to figure out the best use of it. It asks for a little more skill from the player, and I think Wild Mushroom’s going to do the same thing, we think there will be Druids who figure out good ways of setting up little minefields or stacking all their mushrooms together or things like that, it’s just such a different ability that it’s hard to say “Oh look, it’s the new Starfire that Balance Druids will be spamming all the time.”

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

All Beta'd Out

With the death of Beta overnight and the outstanding concerns left with the Balance Druid (and the Druid as a whole), I see no further reason to continue this blog. I honestly can't help but be slightly disappointed that there are fundamental issues that have been neither acknowledged nor resolved with the Moonkin; however, one can only look forward to 4.1.

That said, the Balance Druid has undoubtably evolved with the transition to Cataclysm. These random postings were simply there for my own personal musing as well as a means to go crazy with screenshotting. I had never intended to continue after Cataclysm was released. So...

For people who have taken the time to read this blog, thanks! :)

I hope I gave a different perspective to what you're all read before and I feel content that some of my activity on the forums has perhaps helped shape some of the changes Balance Druids have received over the last several months.


Monday, 22 November 2010

Poking at Balance PvP (as usual)

This is a post of mine from the forums today. I tweaked it to flow for the purpose of this blog post.

 Some issues:

    - Eclipse : Primarily its difficulty to activate, but also tied up with the trouble had casting Starfire. The 4pc PvP set bonus helps, but isn't enough, imo.

    - Lack of passive defenses : notably a vulnerability to spell damage, but a below-par resistance to melee that is compounded by lack of active defense or escape options.

      - Lack of active defenses : as above, lacking both active and passive defense options leaves the Balance Druid with few options. The vulnerability one has while hard casting means that the Druid is better of spamming Moonfire so as to retain some semblance of control and flexibility.

      - Lack of options when trained : tied to the above points of a lack of active defense options. Balance Druids have few options when under attack by one opponent, and no options when assaulted by two or more. All Druid defensive measures are enemy-targeted (Roots/NG and Cyclone), but are far more effective as 'distance maintainers' rather than self-peels or distance creators.

The question of Wild Mushroom viability has been covered very well already on the Beta forums.


Much of this could be put down to melee being designed as offensive classes while casters are defensive; Charge/Death Grip/Stuns/Interrupts/CloS/AMS/Bladestorm/etc vs Blink/Roots/CC(Poly etc)/Iceblock/Cyclone/Travel Form/Demonic Teleport. Melee don't stop the offensive when under pressure where casters typically must fall back into defensive mode when under attack. A generalisation? Yes, as there are always exceptions.

This is of course debateable. I think this design is fine; however, the point I'll eventually get around to making is that the Balance Druid doesn't have defensive options when under pressure. Instead of anti-train and activated defenses, the Balance Druid loses offensive capabilities when being attacked, especially by melee. We cannot deal competative damage to a melee player while they are in melee range and they will easily out-dps us (we die unless we're able to be saved). We work at range, but melee is designed to prevent that.

The 'Moonwalk' concept is a great one. I've always envisioned it as a Faerie Dragon-esque 'Blink' (as per WarIII) where the Druid would take on the traits of the Faerie Dragon to disappear (or slip into the Dream) for ~3 secs. This would be our equivilant of a Mage's Blink, but with a unique Druid style. I have a feeling I've mentioned this a few times over the last few months somewhere on this blog.


So why does the Druid need this? And is it only Balance, or does Resto and Feral also 'need' this kind of reliable defensive option?

I don't have an answer for Resto/Feral, but to me the key boon from such an ability is that we suddenly have options as Balance. We have the choice to put ourselves in a vulnerable position with the knowledge that we do have a chance to make a play if things turn sour. It doesn't guarantee us invincibility, nor does it allow us to be careless. What it does do is allow us to not be countered so easily and force the enemy to work to actually take us down (rather than work on distracting our teammates from supporting us).

With the massive healing changes for Cataclysm, the Balance Druid suffers greatly. Our healing is no longer our crutch defensive option, and Balance Druids suffer here alongside Resto in PvP (due to offensive dispelling and lockdown vulnerabilities; as Bottleórum linked in post #63). Of course, this is more crippling to Resto, but it greatly changes the way we play as Balance without compromise too.

So the Moonkin has comparatively sub-par passive and active defenses. Even Ownkin Frenzy contradicts itself: we gain more offensive power in a situation where we have little-to-no option to be offensive.
If the Balance Druid is intended to be a glass cannon, then we need more options to escape and/or be actually able to deal our damage reliably and effectively. Moonfire spam as our primary PvP attack is not fun nor challenging for either the Moonkin or the enemy.

If the Balance Druid is intended to be a damage sponge, then we need greater passive defenses and activated defensive moves. We do NOT need any more ways to control the enemy. We need ways to control ourselves, imo.

The issues with the Balance Druid in PvP will not be cured by getting more resilience. We need the ability of choice so that we are better able to control how we play in PvP and we need the spec's mechanics to work effectively in PvP (including Eclipse).

As is, we are a half-caste with:

- mediocre healing (and only so when we are not under pressure).

- a Moonfire spam and Insect Swarm -reliant spec. (BG damage parses clearly show the lack of Wrath/Starfire use)

- an easily trained spec that has no active defense option

My random 2 cents on a Starfire reiteration (as is a topic of the moment on the forums):
 2.0 sec cast
Blasts the target with energy, dealing 987 to 1229 Arcane damage. Each time you cast Starfire the damage and cast time of Starfire is increased by 25%. This effect stacks up to 2(3?) times and lasts 6 sec.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Fungal Wild Mushroom Growth

Too much of my PvP damage is from IS/MF when all I want to do is have other spells be viable to cast. WM is just another abliity for the Druid that doesn't click with the Balance Druid as a whole, but just adds to the variety of random, non-interactive, discrete abilities and effects we have.

In PvE we have Eclipse; in PvP we don't. Does the Balance Druid have enough functionality to be viable all types of PvP at lvl85? If not, is WM where we can finally have our ability that people go "oh no, he's really good with his WM!"?

I believe making WM instant would go a long way to improving their functionality, as well as giving the Balance Druid something to cast in PvP other than IS and MF spam.
Secondly, are they viable/useful for any spec without Fungal Growth? I don't see that they are unless there are changes coming to allow detonation in Feral forms (as has been suggested as a use). This would then beg the question as to whether WM is more useful to a Bear than a Moonkin.

Simply making WM instant cast (even if only for Balance or via a glyph) would instantly make WM a viable option and something you would want to cast, even if only for FG if WM's damage remains not the focus (ie. low).

While I don't feel it's interesting as a part of our standard dps rotation, as OP mentions, the cast time is unnecessarily prohibitive anyway, and I would much rather have WM-while-moving than have it decided that I have to spam MF.
On a note about FG, we already have enough ways to keep players away from us (Typhoon, Roots, Travel form, MF spam while moving), but we have little to do once a melee (player or npc) is on us. Do we need a snare? Or is there something else that would benefit us more that doesn't have crazy implications for PvE?

If not instant, than WM could potentially even be a channelled spell with more WM summoned the longer its channelled. Castable while moving would still allow us to then have something other than IS/MF spam in PvP, but then there would be issues of range and a ground-targeted cast-while-moving spell as well as also then giving us another spell to be interrupted in PvP.
Even a Typhoon-esque ground-smear spell that randomly plants several WM, waiting to be detonated? I very much like the area control that Balance Druids are trying to have, but I feel they just don't have any "Balance Druids strengths are this" traits that we can learn to be skillful at.

Basically, there is no depth to Moonkin PvP and WM is the wild card we have left to add to, assuming they're actually castable (instant). I feel there are too many Balance mechanics that are held back in potential, which gives us an arsenal of noncohesive, 'not-quite' abilities. I'm sick of MF spam being our most viable method of PvP damage.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Random Shots - Goblins, Hyjal, Tol'Barad, The Battle for Gilneas, Kalimdor

More after the break.

The Balance Druid

Many aspects of the Balance Druid have already been greatly dissected and laid out in various places (official forums as well as blogs), so I needn't further flog it.

This is a very PvP-focused post.

The entirety of each Druid specialisation suffers due to the Druid having discrete sets of abilities that barely overlap from spec-to-spec; each spec is not only designed to use only its tree's spells, but also actively discouraged from using off-tree abilities. Balance Druids; Yes, Balance Druids need weaker heals. Given the new healing model of Cataclysm, the once oft-heard counter-argument that 'healing is a Moonkin's defense' is no longer valid.
With healing so low relative to heal pools (excellent design, imo), the Balance Druid has lost their crutch defensive fallback without any new defensive option to replace it.

What Balance Druids are now doing in PvP is 'abusing' Lunar Shower since the option to turret and Wrath/Starfire just comes with too much risk for very little profit.
While I feel that Lunar Shower could be improved slightly ("This effect is refreshed and amplified when you move or cast Moonfire, ..."; strafe-twitching is a clunky playstyle), I feel that it is the reward of turreting that needs attention.


There is too much risk involved in hard-casting.

The dangers of stopping for a Starfire cast is so great that it's a instead go for the freedom of movement of Moonfire spam. Something is needed to reduce the risk of casting Wrath and Starfire. Even if this comes in the form of a defensive panic button that allows the Balance Druid to have options once they've commited themselves in siege mode. Or simply have better defensive procs ("When you are silenced or a spell is interrupted, you slip into the Dream and are untargetable for 2 sec.")

Moonkin Frenzy is the perfect talent for a PvP-focused effect in this vein. Not only is the pushback protection obsolete, the 10% damage buff while under attack is utterly pointless. When the Moonkin is being attacked, we immediately have to play defensive. Gaining +10% damage while on the defense doesn't help us survive in any way.

Even a mechanic similar to a Frost Mage's "Early Frost" (Reduces the cast time of your Frostbolt spell by 0.3/0.6 secs. This effect becomes inactive for 15 sec after use.) would go a long way to allowing the use of our core nukes in PvP. Or perhaps even a baseline lowering of the cast time of both Wrath and Starfire, to then have a stacking percentage buff for each consecutive cast.

Inevitably, Eclipse comes into this. With our core binary spells of Wrath-Starfire suffering so much, Eclipse is non-functional in PvP and, even more, It is still too much of a damage swing compared to non-Eclipse.

Without being able to reliably proc Eclipse, a Balance Druid is quickly dry. Others have suggested having a cooldown (~1-2mins) that allows us to instantly proc an Eclipse. I do not see this as the fix and instead believe the ebb and flow mechanic can still be worked with once Starfire and Wrath themselves are castable.


Back to my starting point: each Druid specialisation suffers due to the Druid having discrete sets of abilities that barely overlap from spec-to-spec. The Balance Druid has a small toolkit of spells, which is fine as a design point so long as there is depth to that limited toolkit.

My point? In PvP, our current core offensive Balance spells are rigid and restricted, and very often don't even fulfil the role they're designed to do. We either need more abilities to give us options with our playstyle, or simply add depth and reiterate each spell we currently have.