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Shifting Perspectives: Moonkin mailbag

Tyler Caraway

Every week, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting druids and those who group with them. After a week of being under the weather, we're back with to explore the depths of Murmurs' mailbox and to find out just how much junk he really has in his trunk.

It's another week. Another week and I still don't have my 'OP' version of Starfall to play around with. Do you have any idea how upset this makes me? I mean, honestly, all I really want to do right now is slap on my PvE gear and run screaming through the Horde turtle in AV and watch as Starfall obliterates everything in my path. Is that asking too much? Since I don't have legions of dead Horde bodies to entertain me at the moment, I thought it would be a fantastic time to go in and check my e-mail for a change. That was a mistake.

Apparently, it is not a good idea to rely solely on filters for people that you know in order to view your mail. I mean, sure, I get all the important stuff, but after my week of doing nothing but laying in bed all day long, I came back to see that I had officially broken g-mails load limit. Okay, not really, but I did have well over 2,000 unread messages. That's a lot, like, a lot a lot. Unfortunately, that's far too many for me to ever catch up on if I plan on ever eating, sleeping, working, or bathing again - and, let me tell you, I love to do those things. In an effort to not quit my day job - or get fired from it due to not being awake and smelling like I crawled out of a sewer - instead of attempting to reply to each e-mail individually, I'll address many of the most comment topics in one stroke of the key. Alright, so, there will probably be many key strokes involved in this plan, but there will be a lot less than if I did it the other way around.

Topic 1:
Why do these people keep talking about DoTs?

So, yes, Moonfire and Insect Swarm have become a topic of very heated discussion as of late. The WoW forums, EJ, every Moonkin blogger on the interwebs; everyone is currently having a fit over what to do about balance druid DoTs. Although I did write an article about DoTs already, it mostly concerned looking at the damage per cast time (DPCT, or DPET, or DPECT) of our DoTs in comparison to our nukes with a glossing of when each was appropriate. I'll take the time now to go into a little bit more detail in what DoTs mean for both now and the future.

Before any of this gets started, let me say one thing. This part of the discussion only concerns balance druids that are currently in nearly full ICC gear. If you are still using your T9 set or don't have a lot of higher end raid gear, then this does not concern you at all. The 'poor' scaling nature of our DoTs only becomes an issue when you reach fairly high levels of haste and crit. Now, with that out of the way, let the deep thought begin.

Both Insect Swarm and Moonfire scale very well, at least in comparison to our nukes, with spell power. In fact, it is only due to their vastly superior spell power scaling that we're currently considering to use them at all and haven't dropped them from our rotation earlier. That being said, all good things must come to an end. As it always happens when gear continues to scale, ratings such as crit and haste tend to grow in a greater effective proportion than spell power does. It happened back in The Burning Crusade too, where balance druids in full Sunwell gear were using nothing but Starfire simply because they had such absurd levels of haste and crit that it became fairly worthless to use Moonfire anymore. The same is now true with Icecrown Citadel.

Although our Glyphs which, until 3.3.3 is released, have significantly helped our DoTs throughout this expansion, even they are simply not enough to warrant maintaining as close to 100% uptime as possible on our DoTs. Instead, we're reached a point where rotating between which DoT we keep up is the best use of our GCDs. That is to say, you want to play your rotation to Improved Insect Swarm. When you get a Solar Eclipse proc, and thus are casting Wrath, you want to put Insect Swarm up as it will result in a DPS gain, however you don't need to keep Moonfire up because it is a DPS loss. The reverse is true for a Lunar Eclipse - where you want to keep Moonfire up and let Insect Swarm drop off. Of course, any time you are moving, it is always a good idea to refresh any DoT currently not on the target.

While this advise holds true for many simulated results, it is a bit tricky in practicality. Our DoTs have reached a stage of catch-22 within our rotation. Technically, any time Eclipse is not active, it is a DPS gain to cast both of your DoTs, yet doing so delays your ability to proc your next Eclipse and can result in a DPS loss in some situations. The problem is this: DoTs are very good outside of Eclipse, but they are only actually worth casting if you are going to spend a 'significant' (and I use that term loosely) amount of time outside of Eclipse. Therein lies the problem because a druid has no way of knowing exactly how long it is going to be before their next Eclipse proc. RNG plays a very significant factor in the success or failure of our DoTs, and that isn't something that we have any control over.

The good news is this. Not having your DoTs up outside of Eclipse is such a minor change in DPS that the RNG, good or bad, won't have an overtly significant impact on your overall DPS. While you may end up losing a few points of DPS due to not applying DoTs when it could, theoretically, be a DPS increase, the increase is minor enough that it can be ignored. Suffice to say, crit RNG and Eclipse RNG are going to impact your DPS more than not having one of your DoTs up.

Topic 2:
What do you mean I'm not Glyphing Insect Swarm?

Rejoice and know happiness because the Glyph set up that we've been using since WotLK came out has finally changed! Well, sort of. I mean, yes, definitely our Glyph set up is going to change, but it's really not some lauded expansion of choice.

When patch 3.3.3 finally comes out, and I get my wish to slaughter hordes of Horde (get it? Hordes of Horde, oh I crack myself up) balance druids really don't get any more choice in which Glyphs they are going to use than they do now. Instead of the current Insect Swarm/Moonfire/Starfire set up that we have, the set up is going to be changed to Starfall/Moonfire/Starfire. That's it though. You aren't going to be able to really try out any crazy, experimental Glyph choices that might increase your DPS, there isn't going to be five different ways to Glyph that all yield close to same effect but offer different utility between them. Instead, you're stuck with a set of three Glyphs without options that isn't going to change. Good? Bad? I dunno. It's different, and I like different, but this isn't some amazing change for us.

Topic 3: Send me nekkid pics/I want your babies/marry me.

Naked pictures of myself cost an awful lot of money, probably far more than you have to spend, so, sorry, you won't be getting any. Maybe next time though.

I don't like children, and I would probably like my own children even less. Having kids with me is just asking for a disaster. Plus, I'm a lazy bum that plays WoW all day and does theorycrafting, so I'd pretty much just shove you all off into a corner and ignore you. :\

Sorry, marriage is illegal in my state. Come move here and help me petition the state government to legalize it and then we can talk. Also, I'm not paying for anything because I have to spend my money on important stuff like giant Wind Rider plushies, so you have to buy everything. Oh, and I'm terrible at planning and very forgetful, so you have to do all of that too.

Topic 4: What if I change my spec to X, Y, Z, Q?

I don't know, what if you change your spec? Speccing for balance druids isn't as cut and dry as it might be for other classes. There isn't a wide margin of choice involved in the matter, but there are still several different ways in which you can alter the standard 'cookie-cutter' spec to suit your needs for whatever you are currently having issues with.

I posted up the standard spec with the allotted 2 floater talents in the Balance 101 guide. There's also Wisprunner's sticky on the WoW forums, and I'm sure Graylo has several talent guides hiding somewhere within his blog. Go and look at them, they'll help you a lot.

Now, if you're wondering if you can get excessive amounts of hit and drop points from either Balance of Power or Improved Faerie Fire, stop thinking that right now. To start with, there is never any good reason to drop the points from Improved Faerie Fire. Even with a shadow priest and feral druid in your raid, it's nice to put Faerie Fire up. Why? Because some bosses plain suck and chances are that there are going to be times when Misery falls off. On Sindragosa, Putricide, possibly Saurfang if your raid's DPS is low, Death Whisper, etc, etc, etc, there are times when the boss isn't going to be the primary target and the priest's DoTs may drop off, and in some case they will always drop off. It's for those times that Faerie Fire is nice to have up, because you don't want to have any downtime on that 3% hit buff.

As for Balance of Power, there simply isn't any where in the balance tree for you to put those points that would yield a higher DPS return that merely dropping your excess hit. Seriously, the standard build gets every core talent. If this were something that was feasible, then it would be what every balance druid did - and Blizzard would most likely pitch a fit and change Balance of Power in some way to make sure we take it.

Owlkin Frenzy, another hot debate talent, is also not worth dropping points from any other DPS talent in order to pick up. If you want to put your two spare points there, that is perfectly fine and dandy, but don't take points out of anything else in order to get it. Owlkin Frenzy is good for one fight and only one fight: Blood Queen. Beyond that, you better be playing hard and heavy to whatever God you choose in order to get a noticeable DPS increase for using it.

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