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Shifting Perspectives: Further redesigns to the Mists of Pandaria balance druid rotation


Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat, bear, restoration and balance druids. Welcome to our DPS edition, brought to you by Chase Hasbrouck, aka Alaron of The Fluid Druid blog. This week, we make ch-ch-ch-changes.

A new week, a new beta patch, and a new design for the balance druid rotation (again)! There are some large changes here, as it appears the developers have scrapped a few of the new ideas that they were trying in the beta and have reverted to more of a Cataclysm-style model. All the theorycrafting on this is still being done, so some caution is in order, but I'm tentatively excited about how this is turning out.

First, here's a quick list of the new changes (thanks to Elrahd):
  • Moonfire and Sunfire are now two separate spells independent of Eclipse. Base damage of DoT component damage for both spells increased by 50% and duration reverted to 18 seconds.
  • When Celestial Alignment is activated, casting Moonfire will apply both DoTs.
  • Crits from Starfire and Wrath increase the duration of Moonfire and Sunfire respectively by 2 seconds. Starsurge crits increases both by 2 seconds. This effect is independent of Eclipse.
  • Fae Empowerment no longer exists.
  • Euphoria is no longer a proc but a passive that guarantees double energy generation from nukes outside of Eclipse.
  • Shooting Stars proc rate now 30%, down from 40%.
  • Astral Communion now channels 25 eclipse energy per second for 4 seconds, from 15 energy per second for 7 seconds.
  • New PvP 4 set bonus allows Astral Communion to be channeled while moving.

Double your DoTs, double your fun

In the previous beta build, Moonfire/Sunfire was a "morphable" DoT spell. The Eclipse you were currently in (Lunar/Solar) determined which spell actually came out when you pressed the button. Using the DoT was fairly brainless; whenever you reached an Eclipse, you pushed your DoT button and let your Starfire/Wrath refresh it. In all, this was pretty simple to handle, but it wasn't overly engaging and upset several players who liked having two castable DoTs in Cataclysm, Moonfire and Insect Swarm. It also had some pretty negative interactions with Lunar Shower, which penalized moonkin's DPS on the move.

Now, with Moonfire and Sunfire being completely separate spells, things change drastically. Sure, you'll still want to auto-use it when entering the appropriate Eclipse, but you'll have to pay attention to which one you're using and also keep track of the other's duration, which can vary significantly due to them now being refreshed by crits, rather than casts. I don't want to make any significant rotation suggestions, since numbers are very clearly still in flux, but the overall feel is much more dynamic than it was previously. Starsurge, especially, feels more important because it adds an additional tick to both DoTs on a crit. In general, crit looks to be the new go-to stat.

Rotation set to whee!

Fae Empowerment appears to be gone. (This is the spell mechanic they were testing where casting Faerie Fire increased the damage of your next three Wraths and Starfires.) I had discussed this previously, noting that it was a bit of a trap; if you didn't get a full three Wraths and Starfires off while the buff was up, it was actually break even at best in terms of DPS. What was worse, it interacted negatively with Euphoria, which originally gave a 25% chance of having Wrath or Starfire generate double Eclipse energy. Getting a Euphoria proc, normally a good thing, meant you didn't get the full three un-Eclipsed spells off you were aiming for.

Happily, the lesson the developers took from this was that time outside of Eclipse needed to be shortened, and so we have a mega-buffed Euphoria. This makes Eclipse cycling crazy-fast, especially with the Soul of the Forest talent. Previously, with no proc luck, it'd take you nine Starfires or 13 Wraths before you changed Eclipses; now, it's seven and nine, and those casts are generally faster due to a greater Nature's Grace uptime. There's probably a damage nerf coming, but things feel good right now. (There's also a possibility that things might end up too fast at higher tiers of gear and we run into DoT clipping issues, but I think that's a solvable problem if it occurs.)

Movement issues

Thankfully, these new changes have largely solved moonkin's movement issues. Now that you have two DoTs, you don't have to worry about overwriting your Eclipsed DoT effect on the target in order to get the direct damage buff of Lunar Shower. Now, you can just let the Eclipsed DoT tick and simply add the weaker one for a short move or spam it for a long move. Some players may not like the ramping effect of Lunar Shower, but it's probably necessary.

Finally, for PvP moonkin, the new set bonus is amazing. I'd previously written about the difficulties of moonkin getting to and from Eclipse without a target to cast nukes on; Astral Communion fixed that, and then this bonus plus the increase in speed fixes Astral Communion to make it much more useful. It can still be interrupted, but it's much easier to find a "4-second while moving" window of opportunity than a "7-second stationary" one.

Oh, and last but not least, Rebirth's baseline effect has been changed from a 20% HP rez to a 60% HP rez. (The glyph still makes it 100%.) Previously, the glyph had been essentially mandatory for raiders; now, you have more of a choice, even if all of the options are still somewhat lackluster.

Overall, I'm pretty positive about the changes and feel like they're adding complexity in the right way instead of in a grafted-on way. What are your thoughts?

Every week, Shifting Perspectives: Balance brings you druidic truth, beauty and insight ... from a moonkin's perspective. We'll help you level your brand new balance druid, tweak your UI and your endgame gear, analyze balance racials and abilities, and even walk you through PVP as a balance druid.

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