Tuesday, November 12, 2013

An Outsider's View

First things first. Thank you to everyone for all of the nice things you said about the blog and such on my my "fairwell" post. It is very nice to know that what I did mattered and helped people. Also, there may be a couple of who got excited when you saw this post on your blog reader thinking I've come back. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

This is not a return to blogging for me. In fact, I currently don't have an active WoW account. I probably would reactivate it if I qualified for a Scroll of Resurrection, but I don't. Even if I did, most of the reasons I stopped playing and blogging remain. I am mainly posting this because it was hard for me not to get a little caught up in all of the Blizzcon shenanigans from this past weekend.

So, here is my "Outsider's" view of the Blizzcon announcements with one quick disclaimer. Since I have not been active in the game for more then a year now there is a good chance that with some of this stuff I don't have a clue what I'm talking about. Feel free to call me an idiot.

Mythic Raiding:

Ok, I admit that the main thing I wanted to comment on was the changes to the Raid Structure, or as I like to call it Vindication. If you are reading this you are probably a long time reader, and probably remember my posts on the 10 vs 25 debate. I was and still am apologetically pro 25-man raiding, and argued that equality of 10 and 25 man raiding would be very bad for 25 man raiding and Cataclysm proved me (and TONS of other people) right. Though I didn't spend a lot of time playing MoP, it was clear early on that Blizzard finally agreed there was a problem and were looking for a way to fix it. In WoD it looks like Blizzard is biting the bullet and finally doing whats right (and hopefully getting it right).

As and old raider who has never experienced a Flex raid this sounds like a near perfect set up. Mythic raiding kind of sets an unofficial standard raid size of 20, but at the lower levels it allows a guild to adjust based on the current situation. Lot of good people show up for the night, you can expand up to 25. If it's light night you can go with 15. If you have one or two people in the raid that are playing horribly and bringing the group down you can sit them for the night without hurting the group. Since most people raid below the highest level this makes a lot of sense.

Locking Mystic Raiding at 20 makes a lot of sense as well in my opinion. I know there are probably many hardcore 10-man raiders out there that hate this change and I honestly feel for them. However, when I played 25-mans were still the primary source for hardcore raiding, therefore it makes sense that Blizzard would lean to that size of raid. Also, a "Raid" should have this larger epic feel that is harder to get with smaller groups.

As I've said, this change sounds good to me. My only question is if it's too little too late. I know there are a lot of things that have contributed to decline of subscriptions in WoW since WotLK, but I think equal 10s and 25s is one of the big ones. It destabilized a lot of guilds and helped cause many to fall apart. Having to look for a guild over and over again is part of the reason why I stopped playing. Hopefully, this will stabilize the remaining guilds and allow them to grow again.

Stat/Itemization Changes:

There are a lot changes being made and some I like more then others. However, On the whole, I think Blizzard is going the right direction. I don't know this for sure, but I bet that the demographics of the average WoW player have changed a lot over the past five years. The number of college kids with tons of free time has probably decreased and the number of working people with families has increased. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to simplify the itemization to make it easier on busy adults. For example, I am a working parent with two kids. I raided late at night and went to work early in the morning. The time between work and raiding was spent with the family doing homework and making dinner, and didn't leave a lot of time for figuring the optimal set up after I got a new piece of gear the night before. So, in general I think these are good changes even though I may be a little nostalgic about some of them.

  • No Hit Rating: I wrote a blog post many years ago about why I thought Hit Rating was a good stat after someone argued that it should be dropped on the forums or on a blog. I still think its a good stat, but is probably needed less since Mastery was added. Plus, eliminating it does simplify gear choices a lot which is probably a good thing. (Yes, I know other stats were eliminated as well but I don't think any of them really affect Moonkin, but I could be wrong.)
  • No Reforging: It's funny how some of the major features from past expansions don't last that long. Glyphs added in WotLK king were gutted to near uselessness in MoP, and now Reforging is completely removed.

    I can't get worked up about this one either way. It sounded cool in the beginning but turned out to be more of a pain in the ass then anything else. Plus, it made gear choices less significant because, you could minimize the impact of having a less the optimal piece of gear. On top of all that it made my gear lists difficult to make.

    I've changed my mind. I'm glad reforging is getting removed.
  • Just Leather: Gear that adjusts dynamically to the spec of the player wearing it is probably one of the best changes ever. It makes so much sense on so many levels. Whoever made this possible should get a raise.

Lore an Continuity: 

First off, this is a game and in my opinion shouldn't be held to the same story telling standards as a book or movie. Unlike a book or movie, the primary source of enjoyment in a game comes from playing it. If it's got a great story then that's a bonus in my opinion. As a result, I can't get all worked up about Garrosh conveniently escaping to set up the next expansion, or the fact that he has to time travel or travel to an alternate universe to do so. This is a game. I'm not expecting Tolkien.

That said, I do think that this expansion seems fairly unimaginative lore wise. Between the Burning Crusade and the books, the lore of the Orcs is fairly well covered. While we haven't gotten to play through that lore in WoW, I don't really think we need to. On top of that there are a lot of risks to redoing this story line. First, Rise of the Horde is one of the most popular books. Going back over that materiel will create an opportunity for comparison. It may be wildly successful like the new Star Trek movies, but it could also crash and burn. I also doubt that Blizzard will be able to resist having Thrall meet his parents, and I doubt they will be able to pull it off in a way that doesn't come off sappy and boring. Personally I thought Argus was a much more logical choice I'm sure they will get there eventually.

Other Little Things:


  • Level 90 Boost: It looked like some people were complaining about this in the coverage, but it makes perfect sense to me, and should have been done years ago. WoW is really freaken old. It would be stupid to force new players to level through so much old content just to get to there friends, and it gives a little bonus to old players so they don't have to go through the old content for the tenth time. In fact, wouldn't be against blizz selling level 90 boost like realm transfers at this point.
  • Garrisons: I've never really understood the point of player housing, so I don't really understand the attraction of Garrisons. That said, I did find my little farm to be entertaining, so I may like this as well.
  • Truly BoA Heirlooms: Three words - About damn time!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Lets Make it Offical

I've gotten several emails and such asking about the blog and such, so I guess I should explain what has been going on lately. As all of you can see I haven't written a blog post in over four months at this point. In fact, I haven't logged into WoW in almost as long. I didn't plan on taking an extended break from the game (I still have an active account actually), but it just kind of happened after a couple of things happened both ingame and IRL.

I am still a big fan of the game, in particular I love raiding and the community that can develop around a guild who raids together. I love the struggle. I love the triumphs. I love the stupid inside jokes. Unfortunately, I've found those aspects of the game increasingly hard to find over the past few years. As I've said several times before, Cataclysm was a very tough expansion for me guild wise. Prior to cataclysm I had been in only 3 raiding guilds over 4 years, but during that one expansion I spent time in 6 or 7 different guilds. Most of them fell apart or were on the verge of falling apart when I left. It was a tough time and I considered quitting the game many times. However, I decided to take a second shot at a guild I have a lot of respect for thinking that if it worked out, it could be the long term home I've been looking for.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out. My trial was rejected for what I think are fairly nitpicky reasons. At about the same time I was laid off from my job and it was the straw that broke the camel's back (For the record, I have a new job now.). I didn't have a reason for logging in anymore, and that was good because I didn't feel like logging in anymore. I didn't mean to take a break for 4+ months, it just kind of happened.

Quick Edit: I have gotten a couple of comments asking what kind of guild would reject my trial. The simple truth is that just because I wrote a blog about moonkin doesn't mean that I'm an amazing raider. There is a lot more to raiding then knowing the theory. I've never claimed to be the best moonkin and can say for a fact that there are a lot of players out there better then me.

While I do think the reasons told to me for rejecting my trial were nitpicky, I also know that I could have performed more consistently. At the highest levels of raiding the little things matter a lot and I left myself open to critisism on a couple of occasions. Also, I think trialing at the start of an expansion when everyone is excited about the game was a mistake.


So, what does the future hold for me and this blog? I honestly don't know.

At this point, I doubt I am done with the game forever. I still feel the urge to log in and see whats going on every so often, but haven't done so yet. At the very least, I'll probably buy what ever expansion comes and try it out.

In terms of the blog, I think I'm done. I won't say I'll never write the blog again, but I doubt it. The blog has gotten increasingly hard to write over the years. When I started there were very few moonkin blogs and none of them were doing theorycrafting. On top of that, the theorycrafting was very simple in the beginning. However, over time it got harder, and Moonkin became more popular and attracted more theorycrafters. As time has gone on my blog has become tougher to write and less and less relevant. Given all that, it is probably time to put the blog to rest. But who knows, If I get back into the game in a big way maybe I'll get back into the blog in a big way as well.

I do want to say a few thank you's if this does end up being my final post.

First and foremost I must thank all of my readers over the years. I never imagined that the blog would become as big and influential as it was for a time.

I also want to thank Blizzard, GC, and the developers I had contact with (Chris and Chadd). Thanks for making a great game and getting me into Betas.

Thanks to Phaelia for providing a guide and helping my blog to grow early on. I wish you were still around.

Thanks to the many moonkin over the years who helped the blog both directly and indirectly over the years. This is by no means a complete list: Erdluf, Lissanna, Murmurs, Hamlet, Relevart, and many, many others I am forgetting at the moment.

A big thanks to all my great guildies over the years. Necro, Jeeves, Abid (rip) at FoC; Dchaney, Lotsapots, Doom, Ardin at WA. Sevrenwinter, Myraxa, Osmand, Keahe, Auro, and Syni at LoE. Finally at Skunkworks Infinitum, Neatpete, and Olducu thank you for your support.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

10 vs 25: The Korean Test

In case you haven't seen it yet, here is the news from Korea.
We received several feedbacks regarding raid instance lockouts and 10/25 rewards, and we appreciate your opinions and deep interests. We thought that Korean players wish to enjoy the most hardcore contents more flexibly and according to their play styles. Therefore, from the upcoming patch we decided to change the raid instance lockout rules for all KR servers. Raids, as usual, will be reset every 7 days following maintainance checks. However, after 5.1 patch 10 man and 25 man raids will have seperate lockouts.

From now on, players could play raid instances, such as Mogu-Shan Vaults, in both 10 man and 25 man difficulty. Normal and Heroic difficulty raid of same instance will share same lockout as usual. Furthermore, the loots of 25 man raids has been buffed, and will offer higher iLV compared to same 10 man instance. For example, Terrace of the Endless Spring in 25 man difficulty will drop loots with iLV of 504, wile 10 man will drop 496.

We wish that players will further enjoy the contents and gain satisfactory rewards, and decided to offer the system that suits most well with the KR players. -- From MMO Champion. Translation by 
PrairieChicken.
Here is the TL:DR version.
  • 10s and 25s will be separate lockouts in Korea. Meaning that one took can run both a 10man raid and a 25man raid every week
  • The 25man loot is being buffed to a slightly higher ilevel then 10man loot.
Let me get three things out of the way before I talk about this more.
  1. At this point this is only happening in Korea, and there is no indication that it will eventually come to US or EU servers. Some of you probably remember that the Korean servers had two lookouts per week for Firelands and Dragon Soul during Cataclysm, and that change never came to the other game regions. So this could be a way to test the change in a relatively small region before exposing it to the wider population, or it could just be an adaptation for marketing purposes. I'm going to assume for this post that it's a test.
  2. We know VERY little information about this change. As far as I know Blizzard hasn't said anything about what is intended or how this will affect other systems.
  3. There is NOTHING Blizzard can do that will make everyone happy. Just looking at the MMO Champion thread there are a lot of people that like the change a lot. There are others that are threatening to quit the game over it. In short some people will love this. Others will hate it. Just keep it civil.
This Seems a Little Strange

It's not surprising that Blizzard might be testing a new way to differentiate 10 and 25 man raiding. Over the past couple of months many of the big wigs at Blizzard have said that they aren't pleased with how 25man raiding has declined since WotLK. I also don't think it would surprise anyone to know that I personally wouldn't mind if the system reverted back to WotLK standard for all regions. However, given what we know I do find this change a little strange.

Though I personally didn't have a big problem with it, I do agree that there were some problems with the WotLK model that Blizzard needs to address one way or the other. For example, 10 man strict raiders were not recognized appropriately in WotLK. With that in mind, I can't recall any instance where Blizzard revert a large change back to an early version. Usually they try and create a new system that address all of the issues. For example, look at the Moonkin rotation during the MoP Beta. When many people complained that the Moonkin rotation was to boring and simple they added Fae Empowerment. When Fae Empowerment didn't work out they didn't revert back to the old rotation. They came up with a new one.

That's why this is a little strange. Given the little information we have, this Korean format sounds like a reversion to the old WotLK format. While I wouldn't have a problem with that personally, I have never thought that was a realistic possibility and still don't. If history is any guide Blizzard would at least try to address the WotLK issues, and that is why I think there is more to this change then we currently know.

How this Might Work

Interestingly, there is a way for 10mans to receive inferior gear from bosses, but still have gear that is equal to 25mans in the long run. For the record, this idea came to me while I was reading through the MMO Champion thread, but I can't find the post that caused it. As a result I don't know if this idea is a moment of inspiration or plagiarism on my part. Either way I think it's an interesting idea.

As you may remember, Blizzard planned to revamp the Valor system in MoP. Instead of allowing players to buy gear with Valor points, players would be allowed to upgrade their gear with Valor points. Obviously this change didn't make it into the release patch, but Blizzard does plan to included in patch 5.1 before the next tier.

What if the 25man gear was already upgraded when it dropped but couldn't be upgraded again with Valor points?

I can see pluses and minuses to this idea, but I must admit that it sounds like a great idea to me.

Pros:
  • Differentiates the 10 and 25 man formats without completely delegitimizing the 10 man raiding.
  • Lessens the burden of Valor farming on 25man raiders and raid leaders, making the format more attractive.
  • Encourages pugging for people that want an extra shot at loot.

Cons:
  • It will probably make it harder for 10man raiders to gear up, and be a bit of a disadvantage in the overall progression race.
  • The 25 man raiders will need some way to spend their valor points, if they don't need it to upgrade their gear.

As I said before, Overall I like this idea and would like to see it implemented in the US realms. Let me know what you think.

Monday, September 24, 2012

5.0.5 Gear Guide is Up, Sort Of

I've gotten most of the gear guide done, but I'm not sure I will be able to finish it before leveling starts tonight. So, instead of delaying it I've posted a fairly rough version. I think the valuations are 95% right, though there are probably a couple of issues. As always if you see a problem or something doesn't look right please let me know.

I will try and get the list done before raiding starts next week but it probably won't be until Thursday or Friday since I will be leveling myself.

Also, this list is based off of WoWhead, and it isn't always accurate for new expansions like this. Some of these items may not exist or might have the wrong data. To be completely honest there are a couple of items that look fishy.

I hope this help and thanks for understanding about its incomplete nature.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Another Look at 10 vs 25

The 10 vs 25 debate is nothing new to me or this blog. I've been talking about it for years and have gotten called names for having my opinions. When Blizzard announced that 10s and 25s would be equal in Cataclysm, I like many bloggers and players predicted that it would destabilize the 25man format and raiding as a whole even before the expansion was released. I've used numbers to show that the number of people participating in 25mans has dropped dramatically with each new content patch since 10s and 25s were made equal.

So when Ghostcrawler says that he doesn't like the current situation with 25s and that "Entropy will cause 25s to break down into 10s without strong counter force," all I have to say is we told you so.

I still think that the addition of 10man raids in WotLK was based upon false assumptions about what made Karazhan and Zul'Aman popular in TBC. I still think that the unequal design of WotLK could have worked if Blizzard had given more appropriate rewards to 10man raiders and limited access to both formats. Instead of trying to fix the problems they created, they tried create a new systems and end up creating new and bigger problems.

Yea, I'm little bitter, but you can't unring a bell. As much as I and many other people would love for Blizzard to revert some of the changes they made in WotLK and in Cata, I don't thing any of us are deluded enough to thing Blizzard would ever do that.

The question is how do we move forward? Are 25mans worth saving? If so, why? And finally, how do you save 25mans?

Why are 25s Worth Saving:

It shouldn't come as a surprise to any of my regular readers that I think 25s are worth saving. However, I will  admit that I sometimes have a hard time articulating why. Let me try again.

Epicness: To be completely honest I don't find this to be a very strong argument. Though I have read all of the books I don't consider myself a lore nerd, and have considered WoW more of a puzzle game then a story that I'm playing through. That said, WoW is a very story driven game.

We are the solders on the front lines in a battle for the universe, and have had to fight forces of unimaginable strength. With that in mind it seems a little strange to me that 10 adventure's can band together and save Azeroth from demons, old gods, and elemental lords. If that's the case why wouldn't the faction leaders just form a raid team to take care of it?

I realize that this is just a game and you can't apply logic in a lot of these situations. I also realize that some of this is explained by having Thrall use the Dragon Soul or having Cenarius and the Archdruids help with Rag. Plus, 25 is just as arbitrary a number as 10 in this respect, but raids were designed to be the place where players get into the big fights and take down the big bosses. Therefore, I think you should need a big group to conquer these foes and 10 people just isn't a big group.

This is an MMO, not an RPG: When the Cross-Realm Zones were introduced with patch 5.0.4 quite a few players complained because they didn't like the increased competition. Blizzard responded by basically saying "tough, this is a multi-player game." I completely agree with that response. Blizzard should emphasize the Mulit-player part of MMO, but they should also emphasize the Massively part which they have done nothing but undermine since the first expansion.

There are plenty of game styles out there were you can get together with a small group of friends to fight bosses and complete challenge, but where else can you join 24 other people in the fight to the evils of a fictional world? I'm not a video game expert by any stretch of the imagination, but MMOs are the only place I know of where this is possible and it's one of the aspects that made MMOs so awesome in the first place. Without it, MMO's are just another RPG.

There is Demand for 25mans: I can't say this with scientific certainty, but there is a lot of demand for 25man raiding out there. Over the past two years I've been in a lot of guilds and talked to a lot of people. I have heard a lot of 10man raiders say they would prefer a 25man raid, but can't find one that fits their schedule or that is on their server. On the flip-side I have yet to hear a single 25man raider say they would prefer 10s, and have only heard of one new 25man guild

The problem is supply, not demand. People will take the path of least resistance everything else being equal. As a result players who prefer 25s stay with their guild now that it's 10s because it's easier not to move or they can't find a 25 guild that fits their needs. There are guild leaders who let there guild turn into a 10man guild because it's a lot easier to form a 10man team out of your remaining 20 then finding 5 new players.

The Free Market Solution:

If you know anything about free market economics then you know that you fix a supply problem by increasing the rewards for the supply. This is why Alaskan Crab fishermen get paid so much. We as a society really want the crab, but only few people are capable of supplying it and willing to accept the risks. Therefore they charge a lot of money for the crab and we pay it.

This is the big problem with 25mans currently. They require a lot of extra work to maintain because your roster is 3 times as big, but the only reward for leading a 25man raid is your own personal preference and a miniscule amount of extra gear. The question is how can Blizzard increase the rewards of 25man raiding without gutting 10man raiding and reintroducing some of the old problems.

How Not to Save 25mans:
I think it's clear that Blizzard really under estimated how significant of an advantage 10s have over 25s. To counter that advantage 25s need an incentive that is just as significant, but can't be so strong "that all the 10s players stampede back to 25s."

Gear is a Poor Motivator: This isn't to say that Blizzard can't motivate players with gear. They do it all the time. However, there are only two ways gear can motivate players and I don't think either is very good at balancing the additional logistical challenges of 25man raiding.
  • Quality: This is the first way gear can motivate a player and it is extremely powerful. It is one of the key ways Blizzard has motivated players since the beginning of the game, but when they split 10s and 25s in WotLK it proved too strong. Players who were motivated by gear ran 25s and forced 10s into an inferior role.
  • Quantity: The issue with Quantity is that it is too weak of a motivator. Sure, the players will get their gear a little sooner, but what happens after they get it? You can't equip helmets, so after you get the items you want Quantity is unimportant. This is how Blizzard tried to reward 25s in Cata, but it obviously didn't work that well. They are doubling down on it in MoP, but I expect it will work just as well.
Separate Achievements has Problems: A common suggestion from this past week is that there should be separate realm first 10s and 25s. While Ghostcrawler seemed to be interested in the idea, I have a couple of issues with it.

The first problem I see is that it's too weak to fix the problem on its own. Realm firsts are only important if they are an actual achievement. If there's only one guild competing to be the first on the server, as is the case on many servers, then it's not really much of an achievement. It would also be diminished if it happens significantly after the 10man feat was achieved. Finally, it offers absolutely no incentive for the guild that comes in second, which is unfortunate because realm firsts are determined by time spent just as much as they are determined by skill.

The second problem is how do you prevent a 25man guild from getting the 10man achievement? Obviously, you can make the two achievements mutually exclusive and that would prevent the guild that got the 25man realm first from getting the 10man version. However, how do you prevent the #2 25man guild from getting the 10man achievement?

This isn't to say that I think there shouldn't be separate achieves for 10s and 25s. In fact I think 10s and 25s should be rewarded separately, and the fact that they weren't was the biggest problem with the system in WotLK in my opinion. However, creating a system that rewards them separately and fairly is going to be quite difficult now that 10s and 25s are treated equally.

How to Save 25mans:

It's right to point out that the "logistical" or "organizational" burden largely falls on the leaders and that the most effective incentives would be focused on them. If this were up to the free market the best raid leaders would find a way to get compensated with free gametime or something, but there are too many opportunities for abuse if Blizzard tried to reward guild leaders directly. So Blizzard needs to find indirect ways to reward them.

Give Players/Leaders a Tangible Reason to Prefer 25s: As I said before, people will generally take the path of least resistance. If a guild is faced with the choice of recruiting 5 new people and stay in 25s or downsize to 10s, it's pretty clear that downsizing is the easier option if everything else is fairly equal. Therefore making players/leaders give up something by converting to a 10man gives them an incentive to stick it out and preserve the format.

This would work for a couple of reasons. First, if the raid leader likes the reward they have more reason to recruit rather then give into the easier path. Second, if the players like the reward they are more likely to help the leaders recruit, relieving some of the burden on the leaders. Third, if players like the reward, then they are less likely to accept the downsizing and will be more willing to change guilds to gain the reward. As a result, there is a larger pull for 25s to recruit from which should make it easier.

At this point I wouldn't be surprised if there are a couple of 10man raiders who are fuming mad and asking why 25man raiders deserve perks that wouldn't be granted to 10mans. To be completely honest, I don't think that argument is without merit. I don't think that the average 25man raider does something more then the average 10man raider that makes him more worthy of perks. However, this entire post is based on the assumption that 25s are worth saving. You don't have to agree.

Give them Free Consumables: One of the best ways to motivate people is to give them stuff. In this case the trick is to give them something strong enough to cause them to make an effort to raid 25s, but not so strong that people feel like they have to raid 25s. In my opinion free consumables could come close to striking that balance.

What if when you walked into a 25man raid there was a guy standing there handing out flasks and food that could only be used in 25man raids. From the officers stand point this is a win because they no longer have to worry about Cauldrons and Feasts. They also don't have to deal with the questions about when they are going to be dropped or with waiting for everyone to arrive before dropping them. From, the players stand point this makes 25s slightly more attractive because they then know that they won't have to farm mats or buy them off the AH. Granted many guides do supply these things so there was little worry in the first place, but I do think it makes 25s more attractive for the player if only a little.

Conclusions:

Yes, I believe that it is in Blizzards best interest and in the best interests of the game to save 25man raiding. If you disagree that's fine and I can understand why you may reject what I'm suggesting in that case. However, there are a lot of people that don't want 25s to die, and some of them are important people at Blizzard.

So if 25s are to be saved then Blizzard needs to take some bold steps. The first is to recognize and accept that the 10 and 25 man formats are inherently unequal and can't be treated as if they are equal if they want both formats to survive. The second step is to reward players, leaders, and builds in a way that tries to counter that inequity. I know 10man players won't like that but it is what is required if 25s are to survive. If Blizzard isn't willing to do that to save them, then they might as well go ahead and kill them now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The New Raiding Guide Is Up!

I've updated my Raiding guide to reflect the changes made in Mists of Pandaria. There is a link above your you can use this link. I haven't updated the gear guide yet, but hope to make it available soon. Please keep a couple of things in mind while you use it.
  1. My primary focus in the game is as a PvE Raider and my guide has the same focus. What I say in the guide may not apply if your primary focus is PvP, leveling or Challenge Modes.
  2. There are exceptions to everything. I try to make as few assumptions as possible in this guide, but I'm sure it is full of them anyway. While you can adapt your play to your situation, I cannot adapt this guide for every possible situation or exception.
  3. Finally, this guide is based upon the theorycrafting communities best efforts from Beta using the tools we've had available. However, things can change when you have millions of new eyes looking at the new data with the release of a new expansion. Don't be surprised if the conventional wisdom changes over the next two months to reflect new information. I will try and keep this guide updated with new information but I suggest that you also keep an eye on Elitist Jerks and other fan sites for new information.
Finally, I am completely open to corrections or suggestions if you have them. Please feel free give them in the comments below or send them directly to my e-mail. That said, please give as much detail as you can in your comments. Just saying "Your rotation is wrong" doesn't help anyone.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Level 85, Patch 5.0.4 Survival Guide

The Pre-Expansion patch arrives tomorrow with a lot of changes to adapt to quickly. Granted, this is traditionally a pretty lazy time for raiding and Min/Maxing your toon might not be 100% necessary. That said it is a good time to get a feel for some of the new mechanics and figure out your UI before it does matter in a months time.

When reading the information below, I would like you to keep a couple things in mind.

First, this is a level 85 guide based on the information I have available at the time it this was posted. A lot of this is likely to be relevant to level 90 raiding as well, but there are some differences and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a lot of design changes between now and Sept 25th as well.

Second, I've been doing a lot of analysis using Simulation Craft over the past couple of weeks. Without it significant portions of this post would not be possible, because maintaining my own excel based simulator was a pain in the butt. So I want to thank Starfox and everyone involved with Simulation Craft for maintaining such a great tool.

Important Changes To Remember
 
The DoT Revamp: Insect Swarm is out, but Sunfire becomes it's own button. Basically, we lost a DoT to put a slightly different one in it's place, but that's not the only change. The duration of Moonkin DoTs are also significantly shorter now at 14 seconds instead of 18, and the DoTs no longer proc Nature's Grace. Nature's Grace now occurs when you enter Eclipse.

Specialized Eclipses: The two Eclipse buffs have never really been equal, but for the first time they are now designed to be different. Lunar Eclipse now favors single target DPS with Starfire being a bit stronger then Wrath and the ability to cast Starfall as soon as you enter Lunar. Solar Eclipse favors AoE DPS as it always has but with a new design. Hurricane is a bit stronger then Astral Storm and Wild Mushroom is still buffed by Solar even though it should no longer be a regular AoE tool.

New Cooldowns: Moonkins will have the potential to have multiple cooldowns in MoP. The only standard cooldown is Celestial Alignment and it does requite some skill to use it correctly, since it consumes all energy when used. The other cooldowns are from talents or other spells which I will tlak about later.
Astral Communion: This is a major quality of life improvement for Moonkin and the critters of Azeroth. With the release of 5.0.4 you can set up your Eclipse prior to the pull of the boss, and if there is downtime in a fight you can skip the phase that you are out of Eclipse. For PvPers with the set bonus can cast AC while moving.

Higher Eclipse Uptime: Euphoria is no longer a random proc but a constant benefit that always doubles energy generation out side of Eclipse. This significantly increases Eclipse uptime

Talent and Glyph Changes

Tier 4 Talents: This is the DPS or Output tier of the talent tree and honestly it's the only significant choice a moonkin has to make before level 90 and Tier 6. I've run a lot of tests on these talents using Simulation Craft and have gotten fairly consistent results about which is the best. Here is the current ranking:
Incarnation > Force of Nature > Soul of the Forest

In every test I ran at level 85 Incarnation beat the other two choices by a significant margin. If you read Elitist Jerks you may have seen some comments that suggested SotF is best at some gear levels, but those tests were done at level 90 and I wasn't able to find any situation where that is the case at level 85. That said, I do think Soul of the Forest is probably best for leveling with quests.

The Other Talents Tiers: Most of the choices in the other talent tiers are fairly situational and not all that significant to be completely honest. I expect to use this build as a general rule, but what you choose depends on the situation and personal preference.

Another Glyph Revamp: I'm not sure if Glyphs can go through an expansion without getting revamped. In MoP the Prime Glyphs have been eliminated and with them most of the reasons why a Moonkin should care about glyphs at all. I honestly don't think I'm being overly dramatic in my assessment either. Any moonkin could pick their glyphs at random and it wouldn't significantly hurt them. However, there are five that I think are a bit better for raid PvE then other choices available.

I am picking Glyph of Rebirth, Glyph of the Moonbeast, and Glyph of Stampede. I'm sure that GoR will still be requited my many raid leaders since it reduces the risk that a battle rez is waisted, and there is really no reason for a Moonkin not to pick it up. GotM is great if you frequently heal yourself or pop Tranquility for the raid. GoS is nice because it gives me an those near me an extra speed buff without having to shift forms.

The other possibilities are Glyph of Stampeding Roar and Glyph of Innervate. Both could be useful in the right situation, but I think the others I've chosen are more universally useful. As far as Minor glyphs go, they don't matter at all. Pick which ever one makes you happiest.

New Rotations

Please keep in mind that I am speaking generally with regard to the rotations below. There are exceptions to all of them depending on the situation, but I am not going to go through all of the exceptions.

Starting Rotation: The main thing you are trying to do with your starting rotation is maximize your buffs and cooldowns.
  • Use Astral Communion until you are one Wrath away from Lunar Eclipse.
  • After the pull cast Starfall and then Wrath. This uses your Starfall cooldown and immediately resets it by entering Lunar Eclipse.
  • After entering Eclipse cast Incarnation, followed by Moonfire and Sunfire to get both DoTs on the target.
  • At this point you want to start casting towards Solar Eclipse. Cast Starsurge on cooldown and fill the rotation with Starfire. Also make sure to recast Starfall when it falls off, and before you leave Eclipse.
  • Once you leave Eclipse Cast Celestial Alignment and recast Moonfire no matter how much remains to apply both Moonfire and Sunfire
  • Again cast Starsurge on cooldown and fill the rotation with Starfire. Also make sure to recast Starfall when it falls off. It's also a good idea to cast a Moonfire at the end if both DoTs don't have much time left.

With this rotation you are casting three Starfire's fairly quickly, getting two Nature's Grace Buffs and a whole lot of buffed nukes and DoTs.
Single Target Rotation: After the Starting rotation, the single target Moonkin rotation is fairly close to what you are used too, but with less guess work. Here are the main things you want to remember.
  • The buffed DoT should always be recast when you enter Eclipse no matter how much is remaining on the current uneclipsed DoT. For example, if you have 6 seconds left on MF and you enter Lunar Eclipse recast MF on the target.
  • In my testing I found very little benefit to clipping a DoT at the end of Eclipse. My Simulation Craft tests did indicate that you could improve your DPS by 0.20% by clipping a DoT with 3 or 4 seconds left at the end of Eclipse, but that benefit is so small and risky that it's not really worth it.
Recast DoTs when they fall off, however I would recommend that you delay the casting the DoT if you are one nuke away from entering the Eclipse relevent to the DoT's school. Simulation Craft didn't show that doing this made a significant difference but I have a feeling that has more to do with the gear level I tested then anything else.
  • Cast Starsurge and Starfall on cooldown and fill with Starfire and Wrath depending on the direction.
  • Incarnation should always be used at the start of an Eclipse and then cast normally until you leave that Eclipse. Then Celestial Alignment should be cast followed by Moonfire. Then cast Starsurge and Starfire until the end of CA ending with a Wrath or Moonfire depending on what you have time for. Incarnation and Celestial Alignment should aways be used in this way to maximize their benefit.


  • AoE Rotation: The Moonkin AoE spells are changing in two big ways in MoP.
     
    First Hurricane now has a Lunar version called Astral Storm and both have been buffed compared to what we saw in Cata. Astral Storm is a little bit weaker then Hurricane, but is buffed by Lunar Eclipse. This means that you want to be in Solar for AoE if possible, but AoEing in Lunar Eclipse is a lot better then it was if you get stuck.

    Second, Wild Mushroom is much easier to use, but was nerfed quite a bit. Wild Mushrooms should only be used for AoE if they can be placed ahead of time. Otherwise they don't keep up with the improved Hurricane. Also, it is important to remember that they are still buffed by Solar Eclipse despite there being some talk of them not being buffed by either version.

    Movement Rotation: Movement DPS hasn't really improved for Moonkin in MoP but it is a little different then what we have on live currently. Lunar Shower still has problems, but it no longer generates energy in MoP. Therefore you can spam MF or SnF while moving, but be careful which one you spam because you don't want to overate and eclipsed DoT with the uneclipsed version. Wild Mushroom is also still available for movement DPS and as said before is now easier to use.
     
    Stat Changes

    Hit Cap Change: For casters the base chance to miss a Skull level boss is being reduced from 17% to 15% in patch 5.0.4. This means the hit cap is shrinking from 1743 to 1535.
    Crit > Haste = Mastery: The stat equation is getting flipped in MoP. It's clear that Crit Rating should be the best secondary stat for most players at level 85.

    How players will value Haste and Mastery is not clear at all, and really depends on the individual. Some of my tests slightly favored Haste. In other's Mastery was a little bit better. How you value these stats depends on what gear you have an you have reforged it. I had to run 3 or 4 simulations to figure out what was the best set up for reforges. If you are looking to maximize your gear you will have to do the same.

    Other Changes

    Balance Power Tracker: This is the addon I used to track Eclipse in Cata and there is a new version for MoP. You can find it here.

    Fewer Heals: Many of the healing spells Moonkin are used to having are no longer standard for druids. If you have self healing macro please realize that you only have Rejuv and Healing Touch after the patch.
    No More Stat Sticks: The Ranged weapon socket is being removed from the game which means no more relics for druids.

    Things You Won't see

    Tier 6 Talents: These talents require level 90 and obviously won't matter until MoP is released and we level up. Therefore there is no point in talking about Dream of Cenarius vs Nature's Vigil in this post.

    Symbiosis: The Symbiosis spell is gained at level 87 and not available at this point. That said, I think it's a big disappointment for PvE.

    Fae Empowerment: This was a failed experiment that was scrapped a little over a month ago. If you are Moonkin three is no reason to cast Faerie Fire unless your raid needs the debuff.