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.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Maintaining the Balance

This is little time left in the Beta and soon Cataclysm will be here. Much change has come to the game with 4.0.1 and still more to come. The development of the Balance Druid from its humble beginnings years ago has taken another leap forward with Cataclysm and the Moonkin is undeniably better than it has ever been.

So am I happy with the cataclysmic state of the Balance Druid? A solid no.

I've got a fair few things I've been thinking about and it's easily enough to span several posts over the weeks until release. The catch is that I just have to get around to writing them out. I'd like to ramble (sans ranting) about what the Balance Druid is inherently lacking and where it is intrinsically flawed in my opinion.


Firstly: I love my Druid.

I feel like I'm betraying some part of my self when I say that I don't think I'll be leveling him first come release. I did so without hesitation for Beta, but I can only say that in the end I was unexpectedly disappointed. I can only declare my love for the class so many times before realising that this chicken hasn't got much life left in it, despite how guilty I feel to think so.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Out Of Mana

A repost of mine from the Beta forums.

I've been thinking that the only way to solve Balance Druid mana regen issues while preventing run-away regen once we gear further is to make Moonkin rely on Dreamstate for the entirety of Cataclysm.
The constant (but inevitable) comparison is the Elemental Shaman given the classes' hybrid caster-healer commonality, but I believe that Innervate is the single spell which is preventing the Balance Druid from having mana be as much of a non-issue as Elemental Shaman.


Euphoria - By buffing Euphoria (to say 24% or so), the Balance Druid will eventually gear far enough that a self-cast Innervate will no longer be required for sustainability. This will lead to the Balance Druid eventually becoming very desireable to stack, ultimately being not the way to buff Balance mana regen.

Innervate - By buffing Innervate itself (even if by a Balance talent), again Moonkin will suddenly have a powerful mana regen tool to throw out in a raid. Even if required to keep self sustainability, the boon of having the option to essentially drain oneself to give a load of mana to a healer is too powerful.

Dreamstate - By buffing Dreamstate so that only the Moonkin is gaining significant mana from Innervate is the strongest way to assist the Balance Druid's mana regen without letting them ever have it free to cast on other players. Any other form of mana regen leaves Innervate open to future issues where they outscale the necessity for it being self-cast.
The current issue is that a Balance Druid is typically oom well within 3 minutes with a very basic rotation. Therefore, perhaps the following would be an appropriate incarnation of it.

When you cast your Innervate on yourself, the cooldown of your Innervate is reduced by 90 sec and you regain an additional 15/45% of your mana over its duration.

These numbers are very debatable and very likely doesn't require a double buff, but I feel a change along these lines is the only way to guarantee that Moonkin do not oom from dpsing, which includes Starfall, Typhoon, Moonfire and utility spells.
In my opinion, the only time a hybrid caster should have a very real risk of oom is if they are healing. This appears to be true for the other hybrids, as it should be.

I don't wish to be another 'oomkin' for Cataclysm (including knowing that we'll eventually receive 'bandaid' fixes to keep us in line) and would rather see other factors be what limits our potential. There are other issues with Balance, however, this is one that has been around for a very long time in some form or another.


Fellow poster Karadrum followed up by pointing out the pointlessness of having Innervate so strongly bound to the Balance Druid's regen. It makes one wonder why Innervate is even able to be used on other players in the Cataclysm environment when it is so very necessary always to be cast on oneself. This is what will continue to be the bane of Balance Druid mana issues without careful change.

What the future holds...

Balance, Borked, or Somewhere Inbetween?

A repost of mine from the Beta forums.

The Balance tree needs variety and talent choice in order to:

    - differentiate their talent arsenal from untalented spells. - give playstyle differentiation to the Balance Druid (relative to both other casters, and both Resto and Feral).
    - increase the amount of talent (and glyph) decisions required for the spec (eg. survivability vs utility)
    - increase the amount of sub-themes and sub-streams of talents within Balance that give the spec uniqueness (eg. such as the area control of WM/FG, Solar Beam, Overgrowth)


I believe making Starfall deal Spellstorm damage would be a healthy change, but I agree that it needs more functionality. A stacking haste increase on Starfire? Say "When you deal damage with your Starfall spell, the cast time of your Starfire spell is reduced by 20%. This effect stacks up to 5 times."

Starfall having such a short cooldown needs to be a spell you want to cast as often as possible. This very much so isn't currently the case. Having it never attack mobs that are not in combat and also not targeting CC'd mobs would go a long way to bringing back Starfall into our core arsenal.


I still strongly feel that there needs to be more talents in the Balance tree that dramatically change the function or add effects to Balance spells in comparison to Resto using those same spells. A Resto druid comes very close to being identical to a Balance Druid if using an offensive spell rotation; Resto's offensive spells act identically to Balance. This has begun to change with the introduction of Shooting Stars and the new Nature's Grace, but otherwise remains uninspiring. Resto does get such a unique spell change in the form of Fury of Stormrage.

I like the subtle theme of area control Balance has via Overgrowth and Wild Mushrooms w/ Fungal Growth.
Random ideas:

- Cooldowned, non-channelled Hurricane a la Vortex Pinncale mobs (especially if also adding a proc to cast it free, such as Flamestrike and FS/Blastwave combo)
- Void zone (eg. Increase duration of Lunar Power and have Starsurge consume charges to plant a void zone at target)
- Instant Wild Mushrooms for Balance (especially if able to be glyphed/talented for proximity explosion, or allow WM:Detonation to be toggled to off-GCD auto-cast)

Mana issues can be solved passively, but mana regen scaling needs to be carefully monitored so that the Balance Druid still relies on Innervate as Cataclysm ages. Otherwise we'll end up with Balance Druids having free Innervates, which will be unhealthy for the game in general.

While Resto has already stolen the concept of inceasing Omen of Clarity procs, I believe it is also a mechanic that will greatly benefit Balance. It would prevent us from going oom during our normal dps rotation while then also allowing overuse of instant utility to still potentially dent our mana pool.


Damage mitigation is in need of a solid implementation, especially against magic. It's debatable whether this should be in the form of a new active defense ability, however, it seems to be wholly agreed that there is a need for passive damage reduction. Barkskin gaining additional benefits in the Balance tree would be good too, imo.

What if a deep Balance ability allowed Bear Form to now be our emergency panic button by massively reducing incoming damage either as long as one remains in the form with an internal cooldown, or via some other means.
Perhaps "When you shift into Bear form, all damage deal to you is reduced by 60% for 12 seconds. This bonus is reduced by 10% every 2 se!%*!il the effect expires or you shift out of Bear Form."

Balance does not need another offensive means of protecting oneself.


What if deep Balance had a means of gaining combo points on a target so that they may switch to Cat form and unleash a Maim or what not?

"Shifting into Cat form instantly grants you 4 combo points on your current target." 

Friday, 24 September 2010

The State of Balance

Last week’s push brought us to build 12984 where the Druid received much <3. Most very obviously, Balance received it’s first solid iteration in many months and the future of the Moonkin has become much clearer.

There are several major changes, most of which are working out very nicely to give the Balance Druid a unique toolset. I feel that this is just the beginning for the spec and that there will be several iterations over the next few builds to bring them in line with other casters in both PvE and PvP.


Euphoria first effect revamped - While not in an Eclipse state, you have a 12/24% chance to double the Solar or Lunar energy generated by your Wrath or Starfire when they deal damage. When you reach a Solar or Lunar eclipse, you instantly are restored 6/12% of your total mana.
Eclipse leveling/PvP regeneration has been address and this is hopefully enough. Time will tell if Euphoria requires additional tuning.

Shooting Stars (Tier 3) *New* - You have a 2/4% chance when you deal damage with your Moonfire or Insect Swarm to instantly reset the cooldown of your Starsurge and reduce its cast time by 100%. Lasts 8 sec.
Randomness added via tie-in with DoTs. Adds cross-spell synergy, while also adding Eclipse RNG and rotational RNG. All of which have been discussed extensively and looks promising. The was this plays out is fantastic and very much echoes what I enjoy about Fire Mages. I do feel that 4% is currently too low and would instead prefer 8%, however, that may be to do with currently often having to forego the use of Moonfire due to the mana drain that it current is.

While I lament the removal of Starsurge's knock-down, the addition of Shooting Stars is just too good to complain about and having the ability to have (RNG) chain stuns would be likely unhealthy. Hopefully we'll get some PvP love once the PvE side of things settle. 

Nature's Grace revamped - You gain 5/10/15% spell haste after you cast Moonfire or Insect Swarm, lasting 15 sec. This effect has 1 minute cooldown. When you gain Lunar or Solar Eclipse, the cooldown of Nature's Torment is instantly reset.
Interesting, especially much more so than as a flat 3% haste. Will have to test this out to see what it's like, but it appears to be a regular haste buff to our DoTs so long as quickly pushing from Eclipse to Eclipse.
This is quite a quirky little talent that allows Balance to gain a solid haste boost while preventing Resto from also having to take this by default. The only issue is being aware of the internal cooldown on this effect as, of course, there is no way to track that without external mods.

Sunfire (Tier 5) *New* - While in Solar Eclipse, your Moonfire spell will morph into Sunfire - Burns the enemy for 196.24 to 239.85 Nature damage and then an additional [ 374.92 * ( Genesis : 100%/102%/104%/106% ) ] Nature damage over 12 sec.
Added flavour to our arsenal, as well as getting rid of the dirty feeling felt when casting a spell not of the current Eclipse's school. Great change, although not actually implemented fully yet. All Druids who have learned their mastery (Eclipse) will have Moonfire turn into some other random spell or simply just do nothing. There's really no way this can be a bad talent once fully implemented, however, I'm concerned with the mana cost of Moonfire in general. Mana is the biggest issue Balance is currently facing.

Overgrowth (Tier 2) *New* - Your Entangling Roots and Nature's Grasp have a 50/100% chance to also root all enemies within 8 yards of the target.
Quite a surprise, especially given it being in tier 2. The previous build's addition of instant Roots via a major glyph only adds to the awesomeness. Roots has made solid push as an icon of the Druid, which is part of the whole "What is a Balance Druid?" question I've often asked. 


Wild Mushrooms have been tuned and now pack a solid punch of easily 12-13k non-crits in my dodgy blue dungeon gear. While Fungal Growth is currently broken, the purpose of these guys still isn't obvious given the deemphasis of AoE in Cataclysm as well as Moonkin already having two very solid AoE spells in Starfire and Hurricane. 

I vaguely (maybe) remember it being said that these will end up in our rotation. The issue with this that players are worried about is that Wild Mushrooms require a targeting reticle to place and then need a second global cooldown to blow them (edit: WM:Detotate is now off the GCD :D) . We'll really just have to wait and see. 


Sustainability is currently the biggest problem facing Balance. A basic rotation cannot be maintained for more than around a minute. Adding in any extra tricks (Typhoon, Starfire, Moonfire, etc) just speeds that up. The reimplementation of a revamped Dreamstate is welcome (30% extra mana from self-cast Innervates), however, it simply means that once every 3 mins we delay going oom. Further buffing Euphoria up from its current 12% mana return on Eclipse would leave us with additional problems down the track when that alone becomes enough to sustain us and then leaving us with free Innverates (which isn't the current goal). 

Buffing Innervate for Balance further will also lead to similar issues as we have now. I believe an increase in the proc chance of Omen of Clarity may solve all issues here (even though Resto has already stolen that concept!) due to Omen only benefitting cast-time spells, which would leave a Moonkin still requiring mana management when abusing utility etc.
Keep eye on this issue and see what the future brings :)


The only other point to make at this stage is that the new iteration of Eclipse is fantastic. All key issues of past versions are solved (no more ooc energy decay, infinite Eclipse duration) and only now leaves me wondering if this is the final version or whether they will end up reimplementing decay so as to avoid one holding an Eclipse charge for a boss etc, which is something they've frowned upon in other class mechanics.