Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Moonkin PvP: Upon Cataclysm

I've been making a lot of Moonkin PvP posts lately. I suppose this is due to some sort of snowball effect - I started writing about classes that trumped me in PvP, which led me to talk about our PvP issues, and which has now brought me to this post: what is PvP going to look like in Cataclysm?

Granted, there are a lot of unanswered questions out there, and the next expansion is still subject to change. But the bulk of the Moonkin changes have been made now. We got new/modified spells and talents, including a totally new Eclipse mechanic, which was much-needed.

However, many problems remain. Although, in regard to the history of WoW, I am a fairly new Moonkin, I've done enough reading to grasp that many old Moonkins out there have grown frustrated and pessimistic about the state of their spec in PvP. As it turns out, Moonkin PvP has been broken from the start, and despite all of the amazing feedback, the detailed, comprehensive posts, and the constructive suggestions that were made on the topic, and which you can find all over the internet, Blizzard has never showed any sign to bring us up to par. In fact, Blizz nerfed us a few times.

In their defense, I would gauge that balancing Moonkin PvP is a delicate matter. The way I see it, Moonkins have a huge potential to be overpowered, and it would only take a few, minor buffs in order for us to trump every other class out there.

Still, Blizzard has many tools to tweak the classes they have created, and as I have mentioned previously, many Moonkins have made constructive, reasonable posts in order to salvage Moonkin PvP. It shouldn't be that difficult to make us viable after three expansions, yet we are still behind. Cataclysm offers us some changes - let's look at how they'll impact us.

New abilities
Three new spells are tossed our way. They are:

Starsurge is a welcome change. In earlier Beta builds, it used to have a knockback, and I was sad to see it go - but I suppose having a knockback passively attached to a big nuke might be overpowered. It's nice having a new nuke. It does a lot of damage, and we will be able to use it for our burst. My only question about it, though: because it causes "Spellstorm" damage, which is both Arcane and Nature, do I get locked out of both schools of magic if I am Counterspelled as I am casting it?

Solar Beam, at first, was exciting. Finally a silence. But - it's not really. I don't understand what it is about Blizzard not being able to give us the simple tools we need - just give us a damn silence! Solar Beam is unique from other silences in a few ways - first, it's an AoE silence, the only one in the game. Second, it's a full, 10 second duration, which is quite long. Third, it's on a 1 minute cooldown, which is also very long.

In other words, Solar Beam is poor. There are so many things wrong with it. You know what? I'll list them:
  1. 5 yard radius. Because the silence is only active when the target is beneath it, it would only require one simple sidestep to be un-silenced, effectively making Solar Beam the shortest silence in the game. It would really only be an interrupt. Also, it's unlikely that I'd be able to silence more than one person.
  2. AoE reticle. This makes the spell very clunky to use. How easy is it going to be placing the reticle around your moving target as you are moving yourself? Probably not very easy at all. Even if you'd become good at it, you're still losing time because you have to manually target.
  3. To make Solar Beam viable, it would have to be used in conjunction with Entangling Roots. This would make it the only silence that requires two global cooldowns to be effective.

Though Solar Beam may have its utility in PvE, I find its PvP use to be very limited in most situations. It might be fun in cloistered environments like Alterac Valley, but it will be difficult to find its place in smaller fights.

Wild Mushroom is a new ability at which I can't help but laugh. Qieth from Qieth's Quips has already established that taking the time to cast Wild Mushrooms is a DPS loss in PvE, and I really don't see myself using them in PvP. Though the detonation hits hard, the radius is tiny (3 yards, smaller than melee range), and would require meticulous placing in order to be able to hurt anyone with them. Furthermore, the cast time, albeit short, prevents us from casting it on the move.

Additionally, the Mushrooms won't detonate unless I command them to - in other words, a Horde Warrior might be furiously coming after me, stepping on my Mushrooms, but they won't explode until I press the button. Hell, he could sit on top of them and be safe if I don't notice it.

Finally, the Mushrooms are also targetable and have very low health, so they are easily one-shotted.

Though all of these new abilities are welcome (it's always nice to have new tools in the toolbox), with the exception of Starsurge, they are weak.

Changed abilities
We've received some modifications to our current abilities, as well. And to be honest, I don't like most of them. Here are some:
  • Moonkin Form. Armor contribution reduced to 120%, down from 370%. 15% damage reduction while stunned was removed. Mana return from crits was also removed.
  • Eclipse. Eclipse was totally changed - it's not RNG-dependent anymore. Rather, you build up your Solar or Lunar energy until you reach 100 energy of either type, and enter Eclipse, which buffs either your Arcane or Nature spells until the meter has dropped back down to 0.
  • Healing spells. Nourish isn't a flash heal anymore - Regrowth is.
  • Lunar Shower. A welcome talent that buffs Moonfire.
  • Starfall damage reduced.
  • Wrath cast time and damage increased.
  • DoTs and HoTs scale with crit and haste.

Let's look at them more in detail, now.

The Moonkin Form changes are, at this point, a little confusing. As I understand it, armor levels are normalized in Cataclysm, so that cloth-wearers are much closer to plate-wearers than ever before. That said, 120% seems like a rather small modifier. Coupled with the removal of the 15% damage reduction while stunned, it looks like we have lost some survivability, which is currently one of our biggest problems in PvP.

The Eclipse changes, though welcome in regards to PvE, are a little difficult to gauge in a PvP environment. Regardless, one thing I really love about the new Eclipse is how we will not lose the buff until we actually use it - so if I gain Eclipse, and then I am stunned or forced to move, I will still be able to benefit from it later. My worry with the current Eclipse is with how difficult it might be to achieve it. I have to build up to it - how easy will that be in PvP? Will I ever be able to reach 100 on the Lunar or Solar power meter?

Our healing spells have been changed. No more using Nourish as a flash heal - instead, Regrowth has taken its place. I don't know how effective that will be. Regrowth costs a lot more mana than Nourish. This change will also limit the amount of healing spells I use - Nourish now being a 3-second cast, I will never use it in PvP anymore. Using Regrowth as a flash heal seems awkward - but I suppose we will see how that turns out. I'm really not sure what to think about this, yet.

Lunar Shower is definitely a nice addition to our talents, albeit not a very stylish one. Promoting Moonfire spam, it will allow us to actually do some measure of damage while we are moving.

Wrath, our fast nuke, had its cast time increased to 2 seconds. This was a predictable change, because the previous, very short cast caused issues in PvE, as the spell stopped benefiting from haste very quickly. Though now this problem is gone, it does make me worry about how fast I am going to be able to output damage in PvP. Starfire is still a long spell and hardly viable without the Wrath of Elune proc. How am I going to be able to dish out quick damage? Moonfire spam? I guess we'll have to see.

DoTs and HoTs scaling with crit and haste is a really nice change. It will improve our damage a bit, as well as our healing (survivability). That said, Shadow Priests already had scaling DoTs in Wrath of the Lich King, and Warlocks already had the crit benefit. So Moonkins are going to be the ones benefiting from this change the most.

It's been said several times before, and I will say it myself. We're always an expansion behind. The new Moonkin changes, though welcome (Glyph of Entangling Roots is nice, for example), would hardly be enough to make us viable even in 3.3.5. The main three points of PvP, as outlined in my last post, are these:
  • Survivability. With the Cataclysm changes, our survivability doesn't seem to have improved. Our armor is almost gone and there is no more damage-reduction while stunned. On the other hand, our HoTs are more powerful. I'd be inclined to say we have lost survivability.
  • Control. Not many changes here. We are meant to gain control through Solar Beam, the Glyph of Entangling Roots, and Fungal Growth. Unfortunately, Solar Beam is very weak, and because Wild Mushrooms are so difficult to use efficiently, I'm going to assume that the benefit from Fungal Growth is also very reduced (our Treants are on a 3 minute cooldown and we never decide where they die, so I hardly believe we could use them to proc Fungal Growth either).
  • Damage. Our damage looks better, thanks to Starsurge, Lunar Shower, and Shooting Stars. In fact, I really love the Shooting Star talent. Although 4% isn't a very high chance to proc, our DoTs should be ticking often. That said, we'll have to see how our damage compares to the other classes, and how Eclipse works out in PvP.

Even though in Wrath of the Lich King we are poor in each of these three categories, the buffs we have received will only provide the improvements necessary (maybe) that we needed to be viable in 3.3.5 PvP. In Cataclysm, the other classes are also receiving new toys - we'll have to see how it turns out.

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