Monday, 12 July 2010

Moonkin: What is a Balance Druid?

What is the core concept of what a Balance Druid is? I recently added to a discussion on the Beta forums regarding the direction of the spec, how I feel it lacks a core identity, and how I feel the class lacks cohesion within itself.

I agree with others that synergy and cohesion is lacking with the Balance arsenal. Yet I do also agree that not much can be suggested until the new talent system and altered Eclipse is in place (caveat!).

I am most definitely not trying to copy, borrow, or demand anything from the other casters as I feel there is (and want there to be!) plenty of room for the aethetics and arsenal of the Moonkin to be expanded as a unique caster. I feel, though, that there is still not enough of a clearly integrated system of interconnected talents and abilities, nor that the core of what a Balance Druid really is is expressed well enough.

Some things I have thoroughly enjoyed in other caster rotations are:
Combining certain spell sequences together, such as:
Shaman: Flame Shock -> Lava Burst;
Warlock: Immolate -> Conflag
Mage: Fire w/ proccing talents such as Firestarter (live/beta) or Playing with Fire (beta); Frost w/ Shatter combos (even though different in beta than live)

I thoroughly enjoy these kinds of chains of spells that set up something different than if you were to cast them instead in a different order (or situation). It's not simply a spam and then change to spam like Moonkin has been for WotLK, but these are sequences of abilities that bring great satisfaction when timed right or set up correctly. I believe the Moonkin is headed in that direction in Cataclysm already, but I also believe the community can help with this too.

Balance does not, in my opinion, have these satisfying spell sequences/combos that other classes have. I do like the direction Eclipse is evolving toward, but Eclipse doesn't yet feel like an integrated part of the spec and instead feels like something in the background and not a core philosophy of the Balance Druid.

I do not wish to critique any of the current talents as I expect such to become obsolete come the next beta build. I also give the following opinions and suggestions as food for discussion, not as demand nor tantrum.

I want to be a laser chicken that feels powerful and to be something that people can say "Oh, a Moonkin! I need to watch out for XXXX", rather then wanting to hug me... or at least make there be a risk for them wanting to do so.

In my humble opinion, the following areas are some of the things I think about as how I would see more cohesion between Balance abilities:

- Eclipse
Without seeing the future of Eclipse, it can't be commented on much. However, given how unique it is among casters, I believe it would be something that could be tied into talents and the core of the Balance Druid, even if only for the sake of aethetic cohesiveness. I've found Euphoria very satisfying in this regard even though I haven't particularly needed the mana while leveling.

eg: via random talents reaching Solar or Lunar Eclipse:
reduces the cooldown on Force of Nature slightly;
or, increases the haste of your next Rejuvenation by 50%(100%?);
or, (instead of Euphoria's current mana regen) applies a Lifebloom to the Moonkin;
or, causes your next Starsurge to XXX(deal an additional 20% damage?)
or, causes your next Entangling Roots or Cyclone to be instant

- Starfire/Wrath:
I agree with previous comments that these spells are too similar still. Without changing the base spells, talents could instead add to these. It should be noted that any such proc that discouraged the caster from attempting to acheive either Solar or Lunar Eclipse would be counter-intuitive.

- Starsurge:
As mentioned in this thread already, having Starsurge set up a combo with something else would be interesting; Starsurge causes your next Wrath/Starfire to deal extra dmg, add a dot, have a chance of spawning a baby Treant, etc etc
While it is currently interesting because it's new and its knockdown will be interesting for PvP, I worry that it will not become an iconic part of the Moonkin. In truth I expect the current graphic to be a placeholder, and therefore pray that even changing this to something much more visually/audibly iconic would allow one to capture that essence of power.
- Insect Swarm:
In my opinion, Insect Swarm is a boring spell. It does decent damage when glyphed on live (but gylphs are ignoreable given beta), especially given its mana efficiency, however, it is currently a completely lonely spell with nothing that interacts with nothing else nor is it interacted with in any way. If feel it is another damage spell simply for the sake of it, with not real uniqueness or connection to what a Balance Druid is.

I am not a fan of Insect Swarm and Moonfire buffing Wrath/Starfire, as it feels messy when a DoT drops off during Eclipse. Should I refresh the DoT and waste Eclipse time? Or refresh the DoT after Eclipse and waste DoT up-time? Neither is satisfying.

Why are they Insects and should this aspect be capitalised on? I've always wondered what Insect Swarm would be like if it truly did 'swarm' and spread to other targets given the right conditions (when hit by Starsurge, Wrath, Wrath crits, Typhoon 'blows' then onto other nearby enemies, etc etc). My arguement against this is that Moonkin do not particuly need help with AoE damage, which leads me to my next point.

I've wondered if Moonkin even need this in their damage rotation (either AoE or single-target) and if it would not be better served with a short cooldown and some extra trick added to it. There are no pretty fireworks associated with Insect Swarm nor are there many reasons to not simply fold the damage this would deal into Moonfire. Warlock, Shadow Priests and other classes do have multiple dots as well, but each of these spells has something unique about them that differentiates them from each other. Insect Swarm are only markedly different by Moonfire also dealing damage up-front.

A. Insect Swarm, 30sec cooldown. Instant.
Slows the cast time, attack speed and movement speed of target by 100% for 5 seconds. (Typhoon spreads Insect Swarm to nearby targets?)

B. Insect Swarm, 30sec cooldown. Instant.
Causes the target to lose sight of its current target. (Potentially unnecessary given Typhoon and Starsurge both acting as interrupts already)

C. Insect Swarm, 30sec cooldown.
The caster is surrounded by a swarm of insects that spreads to attackers, dealing XXX dmg over XX(5?) seconds.

(Inspired by the Beta version of Arcane Missles in that Insect Swarm cannot be cast until a specific criteria is met)
D. Insect Swarm, 15sec cooldown. Instant.
The enemy target is swarmed by insects, causing XXX Nature damage over 6 sec. Each offensive spell you cast has a XX% chance to activate Insect Swarm for 15 seconds. (Even could be further interated or talented to include the previous notion of a 'spreading swarm of insects')

None of these suggestions may be necessary. I feel that an incarnation like the 'D.' example above is something that would give one satisfaction to hit. I also strongly believe that spell visuals and sound has a strong effect on one's satisfaction with a spell and Fire Mages hold a special place in my heart for how they feel like they're really like they're hurting the enemy. Insect Swarm has a little buzz and then it goes about it's business.
I do still feel that the current version of Insect Swarm is not interesting and truly has no reason to exist other than to make it appear that a Balance Druid has another spell.

Like Insect Swarm, Thorns is a boring spell in my opinion. It isn't an obvious source of damage and has no skill involved in its use. It was overpowered in early WotLK given its higher coefficient and it deserved that nerf. While there was some satisfaction in watching opponents mindlessly kill themselves, it has never been an exciting spell in any regard, in my opinion. I would love to see this spell capture a sense caution when attacking a Balance Druid.

Without knowledge of how lvl85 PvP will evolve, I only suggest ways of turning this into an active and fun ability for those purposes.

(Obviously inspired by Barkskin, but gives the Druid choice. Choice is always good)
A. Thorns, 60sec cooldown. Thorns erupt from the druid, causing enemies to take XXX damage or . This spell is usable while stunned, frozen, incapacitated, feared or asleep. Usable in all forms. Lasts 8 sec. Shares a cooldown with Barkskin.

Necessary? Without access to lvl85 PvP, it is not possible to know. This above idea is potentially as boring as current Thorns, but having choice is the key of my intent.

I hope I am able to express clearly enough that I'm not seeking any kind of overhaul of the class, but that I do wish to see changes and enhancements to the spec. I hope to see the Moonkin be given cohesive meaning and a solid core concept as to what it is to be a Balance Druid and a Moonkin as I feel this is where we lack.

hug me pls :)


  1. TLDR: More choice, more control, more definition :)