I speak often of high-end raiding content, though to ignore the a significant portion of the game is rather foolhardy. Leveling and solo content is a significant portion of this game, and it is one that should not be overlooked. I have briefly touched upon this subject previously, how Eclipse is not the best of concepts for leveling, but I would like to take the time to expand upon those initial thoughts.
I have spent the past few days getting a feel for balance leveling, predominately without the use of heirloom items. I also spent some time testing it against feral leveling to see how the two compare -- the basics of which are that there is no comparison. That is a different story, for now I wish to focus exclusively upon the concept of Eclipse. As far as leveling is concerned, Eclipse may as well not exist. Without haste -- and to a certain extent, crit -- you simply cannot reliably generate Eclipse fast enough to actually get a proc. Due to the rapid out-of-combat decay that Eclipse experiences, it often requires three mob kills just to get a proc, though that all depends on how spaced out the mobs are and how quickly you can re-enter combat. Worse than that, even once a proc is gained, Eclipse still rapidly decays out of combat, and a vast majority of the proc will generally be lost before it can even be used.
Even after the changes brought forth in Cataclysm to Eclipse and the way in which our damage is balanced, Eclipse is still quite a significant portion of our overall potential. The inability to fully or even moderately benefit from Eclipse while leveling is crippling to a young balance druid. A 25 percent damage boost is significant, even at lower levels. To lose that slows the entire process drastically. Sadly, there is no real means to fix this situation; it is merely a byproduct of the Eclipse system that cannot be helped. Reducing the rate a which Eclipse decays while outside of combat would certainly help the matter, but it wouldn't entirely solve the issue.
Eclipse simply is not a fantastic leveling concept, and I believe that is merely something that balance druids are going to have to live with. The mechanics are solely developed around factors of prolonged combat; they simply aren't set up to exist within the confines of short periods of combat. We can work with that, but solo leveling may need a spot of help. That doesn't have to come from Eclipse; the ability doesn't need to be tweaked in any significant means in order to assist the leveling process. If balance leveling does need help (and I believe that it does), then there are other means to do that.
I realize that I have rambled on for quite a while, and I do not wish to do so for much longer. I simply would like to restate that I do not hate the current way Eclipse works on beta. It is mathematical and predictable, but that in of itself is not a negative quality. While I make arguments for a more complex rotation, I do so out a pure desire to have such a thing, not out of a need for it. Whether or not the balance rotation becomes more complex is of no consequence. It would be nice to have, I would say, but it isn't a requirement. Far more important than that is the sustainability of our DPS potential; that we are able to scale appropriately as the expansion progresses. To that end, there are some potential changes to Eclipse that should be made in order to ensure that. While I cannot say with 100 percent certainty that it has to happen, changing Euphoria to act as a "smart" Eclipse gain would make the balancing act of our DPS scaling far easier to control.
With Euphoria as it remains, how we scale is then subject to fairly vast fluxuations, which can cause long-term issues much as we experience currently. Scaling does not need to be linear, but it should be far more controlled than the way it currently sets out to be. Scaling is important; steady, more predictable scaling, far more so. If a talent, ability or mechanic scales too well or too little, it becomes far easier to adjust the parameters that need to be changed when the scaling itself is more controlled. When the scaling is far more chaotic, the proper adjustments become much more difficult. Euphoria must be changed, if not for the sake of allowing our DPS to be balanced properly, then for the purpose of allowing our DPS to be easier to adjust, should it be necessary.
Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of truth, beauty and insight concerning the druid class. Sometimes it finds the latter, or something good enough for government work. Whether you're a bear, cat, moonkin, tree or stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny on druid changes in patch 3.3, a look at the disappearance of the bear tank and thoughts on why you should be playing the class (or why not).