Saturday, October 16, 2010

Moonkin PvP: The problems

Let's do this.

I'm excited. I've wanted to make this post for a few months now, since long before I even began this blog. Ever since I started PvP with my Moonkin, I knew that at some point in the future, I would write this. As a serious Moonkin who happens to love writing, it's inevitable. Over the last many months, I have done a lot of research - I've read countless threads and blogs about both Moonkin PvE and PvP, the QQ rants, the oh-my-gosh-Starfall-is-buffed posts, the guides, etc. I read Qieths' Quips, Gray Matter, Restokin, and Shifting Perspectives - and if you're also a serious Moonkin, chances are you've come across any of these blogs at least once.

Now, before I get started, I should give a brief overview. This post is not going to be a guide - I will simply explain, to the best of my ability, all of the Moonkin issues in PvP as of patch 3.3.5, and hopefully convince you - if you don't already know it - that it is the most difficult PvP spec in the game. Granted, retail just patched to 4.0.1, and this seems like quite a redundant activity. However, like I said, I've always wanted to write this, and although it may even be outdated - I simply don't care. At the very least, this will have satisfied my writing pleasure, and may even serve as good reading for others. Maybe you will read this in several years, after two new expansions have been released, as a way to reflect on what Moonkin had once been (which would qualify you as an uber-nerd, such as I am).  One thing though - my apologies for the links.. please keep in mind that the tooltips in this post will most likely be inaccurate due to showing Cataclysm tooltips.

And hell, I might even add a section to include my thoughts on our Cataclysm changes. We'll see.

All right, let's get this started. Moonkin PvP. The problems. May I suggest a little music?

What? A second introduction?

No, silly! What I wrote above was an introduction to this post. Now I am writing the introduction to Moonkin PvP.

Let's look at what makes PvP what it is - its essential components. These are:
  • Survivability
  • Control
  • Burst damage (damage-on-demand)

You could argue against burst damage by saying that slow, over-time damage (while kiting, for example) works well enough against classes that cannot heal, like Rogues or Mages. But most classes have some way to regenerate health, even those that are considered non-healer classes, such as Destruction Warlocks and Blood Death Knights. Furthermore, if you can take down your opponent with slow damage, that's great! But what's being done to you meanwhile? It won't be very effective if you are being nuked at the same time. Essentially, you still want to be able to blow up the other player faster than he can.

Survivability is, of course, a must. Some classes find survivability in being able to control their opponents very well. Others absorb damage, and others simply heal through. Control is important in that it allows you to either reduce the amount of damage you take, or set up your burst.

Moonkins are good at none of these three things. Well - it's not that we're bad at it, but rather that we lack the proper tools to be as good as the other classes.

For the sake of not mixing survivability and control (seeing as crowd-control abilities can provide survivability), I will keep this section to abilities that provide damage mitigation, healing, avoidance, etc. The following are our survivability tools:

As you can see, save for our healing spells, we only have two buttons we can push to help our survivability - Barkskin and Moonkin Form (though Moonkin Form only helps against melees, and can't be cast while incapacitated).  There are no "oh-fuck" buttons. However, considering our arsenal of healing abilities, it may seem as though they aren't needed.

Nonetheless, none of these abilities make us resilient.  It is apparent that Blizzard intended us to be able to remain alive through healing, but it is ineffective. Our health plummets at absurdly fast rates, and our heals are not potent enough to keep us alive through it, especially if there are Mortal Strike, Permafrost, or Wound Poison effects on us. Furthermore, healing forces us to be defensive, and it is impossible for us to effectively keep our opponent from damaging us while we heal - this results in a situation in which our enemy is pounding on us as we struggle to remain alive, only to eventually die without even having put a dent in him. This problem is related to burst damage, which I will explain in greater detail later.

Another problem with our healing is that it costs a lot of mana, which is not a resource we have in great quantities in PvP. In PvE, Moonkins are exceptional at mana-efficiency because of the mana return on crits - with enough critical strike rating and intellect, it is impossible for a Moonkin to go OOM. Unfortunately, in PvP, both crit and intellect are low, and resilience makes crit even lower - in fact, you could see resilience as a straight Moonkin mana nerf. We go OOM exceptionally fast, and it hurts even more when Innervate it dispelled.

Additionally, other classes have tools to reduce the capability of our HoT healing and Barkskin, with abilities such as Dispel Magic, Purge, Spellsteal, Shield Slam, and Devour Magic.

And furthermore, there is the issue of dropping all of our armor to heal. Dropping Moonkin Form to heal near a melee is like giving him a huge armor penetration buff, complete with a taunt. You can only pray you won't get stunned in caster form.

All in all, Moonkin survivability is nothing short of terrible. The only button we can push if we are in trouble is Barkskin. In the past, I've found that running away from melees in Travel Form and then casting Rejuvenation on myself, followed by three stacks of Lifebloom, has been moderately effective - but once the melee catches up to me, he will usually be able to do enough damage that my health will not be going up.

Druids are often cited for their amazing crowd-control tools. Here's the list:

Moonkins also have Typhoon, which is .. sort of .. a CC. Its damage is extremely poor considering the mana cost, and because the knockback has a travel time, it hardly works as a spell interrupt. Typhoon works primarily as a peel, and the daze effect can be useful against melees.

There are some huge problems with these tools.  First of all, none of them are stuns, silences, or interrupts (with the exception of Typhoon if you are lucky). Nature's Grasp requires you to be hit to proc, and more often than not, this causes situations in which the melee I have just rooted is standing right next to me, killing me as he keeps me stunned (Rogues and Warriors come to mind, especially).

The other CCs require a cast time, which seriously hinders their efficiency. Hibernate is only usable against Feral Druids, Hunter pets, and Shamans in Ghost Wolf form, which is already limited, and will break upon damage. Entangling Roots is almost never useful against casters, and it is rare that I can keep a melee rooted very long - they can usually remove them somehow, or my own damage will break them, or they will break on their own. Roots are extremely unpredictable.

Finally, Cyclone. Cyclone is often considered the best crowd-control in the game, as it renders the target totally immune, and the only way to get out of it is by using a PvP trinket or with Ice Block. Unfortunately, in PvP, Cyclone is really just a double-edged sword with harsh diminishing returns. The immunity prevents me from damaging the target, and Cyclone doesn't work well as a button I push when I really need to get the pressure off me to heal. Because it is my only incapacitating tool, the first application is usually when my opponent will trinket - after which I can only cast Cyclone again twice, for a 3 second duration, and then a 1.5 second duration, which is hardly enough time to do anything.

Furthermore, all of these CCs (and all of my heals) are of the Nature school of magic. If I get locked out of Nature spells, my ability to do - well.. anything - is seriously reduced.

Burst damage
Moonkins are sometimes affectionately known as "crit chickens." This is because in a PvE setting, we are able to chaincast back-to-back Starfire crits while Lunar Eclipse is up. This is not the case in PvP. Let's look at our damaging spells:
  • Wrath. A fast nuke, with low damage.
  • Starfire. A slow nuke, with medium damage.
  • Moonfire. Does initial and DoT damage, but both are weak, and the spell itself is mana-costly.
  • Insect Swarm. This is actually a good DoT when glyphed, on par with a Shadow Priest's Shadow Word: Pain (except that it can't crit, of course). It is also extremely mana-efficient.
  • Typhoon. As discussed above, Typhoon is only used for the knockback and daze effect - I hardly ever use it as a way to deal more damage.
  • Force of Nature. Situational, and on a 3-minute cooldown. The treants can be great against non-plate wearers, and if they are able to remain alive, or near the target. Their damage is good, and they are useful to cause spellcasting pushback. Never to use against Warriors.
  • Starfall. Can be quite amazing. Unfortunately, it will break every snare, and will not take effect the moment we are incapacitated - which is quite often.

Let's look at these in a PvE context. In a raid setting, Wrath and Starfire are our primary nukes, together comprising around 70-75% of our total damage. This is thanks to Eclipse, which we try to proc as often as possible, and which buffs both Wrath and Starfire. I cannot link Eclipse in this post because it has been totally changed for Cataclysm. In 3.3.5, this is what Eclipse does:
  • When you crit with Wrath, you have a 60% chance to proc Lunar Eclipse. Under the Lunar Eclipse effect, your critical strike chance with Starfire is increased by 40%. Lasts 15 seconds. 30 second internal cooldown.
  • When you crit with Starfire, you have a 100% chance to proc Solar Eclipse. Under the Solar Eclipse effect, your damage with Wrath is increased by 40%. Lasts 15 seconds. 30 second internal cooldown.
  • Both effects are separate, meaning you cannot proc one type of Eclipse while you are already benefiting from the other.

The problem with this mechanic is that we require it to be on par with the DPS of other classes, and that it is totally dependent on RNG (random-number generation, i.e. chance). In PvP, Eclipse procs are much, much more rare than in PvE - in fact, some Moonkin PvPers don't even bother picking it up in our talent tree.

Additionally, because PvP is such a movement-intensive environment, even if we do manage to proc Eclipse, it is likely that we will not be able to benefit from most of the buff.

In PvP, our DoTs play a much bigger role than in PvE, as we are often forced to kite our opponents, or prevented from casting Wrath or Starfire - neither of which hit very hard if not Eclipsed. Unfortunately, we aren't a DoT class like Shadow Priests or Affliction Warlocks, and although Insect Swarm does good damage when glyphed (and so does Moonfire, but the Glyph of Moonfire is undesirable in PvP because we still want to be able to finish off targets on the run), neither of our DoTs crit or benefit from haste. This leaves us with our other instant casts, all 3 of which are on a cooldown, and which will not necessarily be enough anyways.

We end up unable to do much damage, as our main damage buff - Eclipse, which we need to do as much damage as the other classes - suffers from both movement and the reduced critical strike chance found in PvP.

Player vs. player is about three things: survivability, control, and damage. Moonkins are good at none of these.

Our survivability is solely invested in our armor buff from Moonkin Form and our healing - neither of which are efficient, in part because the two are mutually exclusive, and because our healing is weak and mana-expensive. We also lack any sort of "oh-fuck" button to push when we are in trouble.

Furthermore, our control is very poor. We are not equipped with any stun, silence, or interrupt. Roots break too easily, Nature's Grasp requires us to be hit, and Cyclone has harsh diminishing returns, on top of that it doesn't allow us to damage our opponent.

Our on-demand damage is nerfed by resilience and movement. We need Eclipse to be on par with the damage of the other classes, but it rarely ever procs in a PvP setting. We have few buttons to push to increase our damage (Starfall, Force of Nature (situational)), and we cannot burst anyone down faster than they can kill us.

Moonkin PvP is broken in 3.3.5. I will make a post about Cataclysm later :)

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