WAWK: Druid Artifact Edition

Druid_crest

SPOILER ALERT

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

In part 3 of 12 of the current WAWK series (with apologies for quietness yet again), we’re taking a look at the story and lore behind the Druid artifact weapons, alongside looking at the scenarios themselves and working out who’s who and why we’re on a crusade of maniacal murder in order to get our shiny weapons.

In contrast to the Demon Hunter chapter’s lack of content due to a lack of specs, Druids get the opportunity to level up to four different weapons! The Scythe of Elune awaits Balance Druids, whereas the Fangs of Ashamane are awarded to the melee DPS counterparts in Feral. Guardian Druids get to wield the Claws of Ursoc while Restoration uses a branch of the Mother Tree, G’Hanir.

Introductory Quests

Before we choose our artifact, Arch Druid Hamuul Runetotem flies down from the sky and tells you that your presence is requested at Moonglade, as a ritual of great importance is being prepared. Using your trusty teleport to Moonglade, you are told by the Arch Druid that the ritual is to open a Dreamway in order to cover vast distances of Azeroth in only a few steps. He asks that you find Zen’tabra and Naralex and then join Malfurion at the ritual site.

Zen’tabra, the Troll Druid trainer in the Echo Isles, can be found on the western shore of Lake Elune’ara fishing in bat form. Finding Naralex on the eastern shore (ahem, that looks more like the southern shore to me, Hamuul) is a little more difficult however, as he’s wondered off from his camp. Following his scent, and you find the Wailing Caverns dreamer “meditating” on the cliff side. Wake him up and he will turn into a moose and head toward the ritual site.

Meet back with Hamuul and he will then tell you to go to Malfurion at the Stormrage Barrow Dens. Hamuul, Malfurion, Keeper Remulos and the two Druids from earlier all help you in empowering the gateway into the Dream, before you then have to enter it yourself to reach Val’sharah, the ancient home of all Druids. Enter the Dreamway and you are met with a beautiful sight of lush, green landscape, but a few scars of black and red vines litter the emerald gateways. The Emerald Nightmare has somehow spread once more from the Rift of Aln and we have to destroy the growths while Remulos attacks the barrier.

After defeating the Nightmare Blight, Remulos turns up and says that the way is clear, and you head on over to the gateway to Val’sharah, to the Dreamgrove. You meet with Arch Druid Rensar Greathoof and Remulos tells him that we must wield the weapons of old in order to combat the Burning Legion. Apparently we’re the only ones powerful enough to wield them! Where was I when you guys gave me an Arch Druid ranking, if I’m more powerful than you guys to wield these ancient weapons? It’s at this point that all Druids split into their spec-specific scenarios.

DruBal

Balance – Scythe of Elune

The Scythe of Elune is an interesting artifact to give to Druids as it has ties to the creation of the Druids of the Pack, now known as the Worgen. Created during the War of the Satyr from the Staff of Elune and a fang from the wolf demigod Goldrinn, unsuspecting wielders of the staff can give into the ferocity of Goldrinn’s spirit.

When Malfurion banished Alpha Prime (Ralaar Fangfire) to the Emerald Dream, he entrusted the Scythe to Mel’thandris Starsong and when she eventually fell in the War of the Satyr, the Scythe was buried with her. Later, her niece Velinde was granted the Scythe from what she believed was Elune answering her prayers, and unleashed the Worgen onto the demons of Felwood.

Soon she realised that worgen numbers were increasing without her summoning more into the world, so she sought out Archmage Arugal in the Eastern Kingdoms as she had heard he’d also been successful in summoning the wolf-men. However in Duskwood she was intercepted by Varkas, a worgen seeking to overthrow Alpha Prime with the Scythe, and a case of dynamite exploded at Roland’s Doom, killing both Velinde and her attackers and trapping the scythe within the cave.

Jitters, a human in Duskwood, later found the Scythe and released the worgen into Duskwood, and also drew the attention of the Wolf Cult of Gilneas. Eventually Revil Kost, a human priest, and his party came upon Jitters, who told them that the Black Riders of Deadwind Pass were seeking the Scythe at Roland’s Doom, however the Wolf Cult managed to get to it first. After dealing with the worgen, Kost used the Scythe to lure the Dark Riders into an ambush, before sending the Scythe north to Gilneas to banish Alpha Prime back into the Emerald Dream once more.

Alpha Prime was instead killed by the ghost of Arvell in the worgen starting experience, a Druid who refused the use of Pack form and was killed by a satyr. Now back in Night Elven hands, Tyrande now keeps the Scythe safe and us Balance Druids have to convince her that we are worthy of keeping it safe in the battles to come.

Naralex immediately runs up to tell you that Tyrande has authorised the release of the weapon, and that Valorn Stillbough has it once again in Duskwood in his investigation of the feral worgen there. Using the trusty speedy travel services of the Dreamway, you end up at the Twilight Grove in Duskwood, and Valorn is there to present you your new artifact weapon!

Ariden, a Dark Rider, turns up out of nowhere and slays Valorn on the spot, taking the scythe and riding off. It’s up to us to take the scythe back from the Dark Riders, and although Ariden yells that the scythe belongs to Karazhan, we apparently have no idea where to start looking. Valorn and his companion, Belysra Starbreeze, last saw them at Manor Mistmantle outside of Darkshire, so we have to head there to work out any clues as to where to find the Dark Riders.

Inside the Manor we find Revil Kost, who is himself searching for the Dark Riders to reclaim all the artifacts they have no right to. He has a clue as to where to find them, and we get to partake in an escort quest to Ariden’s Camp in Deadwind Pass. After a quick few skirmishes against other Dark Riders, it certainly seems that Kost is a little warmer to you as a Balance Druid in comparison to Unholy DKs and Affliction Warlocks.

After you reach the camp, you find out that the camp is where Ariden was a merchent while trying to ply his dubious wares to the sorcerer Medivh. Looking through his battered journal, you are first attacked by Wrathful Memories. We find out in the journal that the Nightbane worgen become restless as the Scythe of Elune gets nearer, and that they would lead Ariden to the artifact.

The link that allowed Ariden to find Valorn is now our link to finding his new hideout, and more importantly Ariden himself so we can exact vengeance for Belysra. Following luminescent worgen tracks and we find, surprise surprise, that they lead to Karazhan. We find Kost next to a pair of slain Nightbane outside a sewer grate beneath Karazhan, leading us to the next stage of our journey.

Travelling down the spiral staircase and defeating the guards, we’re then blocked by writhing spirits down a long corridor. Displacer Beast or silencing Ariden with Solar Beam will allow you to bypass the spirits and the Curator’s little brother, the Conservator, will try to stop you. Entering the room behind and you see all sorts of artifacts the Dark Riders have taken: titan spheres, runes and magical doodads, even some draenei crystals. Some weapons are rested on the walls, but the prize you seek is right in front of you. Attempting to grab it will knock your back and Ariden taunts you while force-choking Kost, then he rides away again further into the sewers.

Eventually you’ll meet Ariden head on, and after a short fight with him, he will succumb to the rage of the wolf within the scythe, and it becomes a kiting game! Once you defeat him Kost will return to you and tell you that he will reclaim the stolen artifacts and return them to their rightful owners. Although Ariden has been defeated, he says that they will soon regroup. Sounds like a future story element to me. A short Dreamwalk later and you’re back at the Dreamgrove. Talk to Arch Druid Greathoof and he will give you the last seed of the first forest of Azeroth, known as the Seed of Ages. Plenting it in an area with plenty of air and water will allow it to grow, and you can combine its powers with the scythe to make them both far more powerful.

Once you plant your seed, you return to Malfurion, and finally he realises you’re an ok druid and grants you the title of an Arch Druid!

DruFer

Feral – Fangs of Ashamane

Drawing the short paw on the lore front, Feral get to dual wield daggers and are introduced to a nightsaber Wild God named Ashamane. Unfortunately during the War of the Ancients 10,000 years ago she fell against the might of the Legion. The druid sect called the Ashen protect her fangs, which hold much of her power still to this day, at her shrine in Val’Sharah. It’s up to us to persuade the Ashen to use the fangs in combat against the Legion once more. Seems simple enough, right?

With Rensar Greathoof’s signet, we take a short flight to Ashamane’s Fall to speak with Delandros Shimmermoon, only to find an Ashen druid nearly dead and Shimmermoon kneeling over her. Verstok Darkbough appears to be distressed by this, yelling at Shimmermoon saying that the shrine is no longer safe and that he’ll guard the fangs in case the wards fail.

Shimmermoon says that he’ll help us if we help him first, so our first task is to kill some eredar and free their captives, and to find the Tel’andu seeds in order to refresh the wards. As it turns out, the three elves responsible for keeping these seeds are dead, so you just have to gather them from their corpses. Once you return to Shimmermoon, he asks what it is you require.

When you tell him, he lets you know that normally he would have told you to take a walk, but because of you saving those four druids and returning the seeds to him, he will allow you to take them – as long as you get rid of the rest of the demons in the area. Before you are able to begin however, fel energy explodes from the shrine itself, and you’re told to go investigate to see what’s happened to Darkbough.

When you get there, you find the pit lord Algromon about to take them. The wards had failed, but fortunately Darkbough was able to take them and run off before Algromon could. After you dispatch the annihilan, Shimmermoon goes to investigate and finds that the fangs have gone. He tells you to track him down and recover the Fangs, as although he saved them for a brief period, it’ll be suicidal to stay out in the wilds with them.

The search will take you down to the south eastern edge of Val’Sharah (after being transported helpfully by Shimmermoon’s mount, Ebonfang), and you have to go into cat form yourself to detect his scent. Following it down the path, you find that the withered – elves that have turned into zombie-like beings in a thirst for magic – have littered the path while hungering for the magic in the Fangs.

Flipping two switches will open the doors to Falanaar, where Darkbough is hiding. When you enter he accuses you of being a demon and says that you’ll never get the Fangs from him. I guess he’s gone mad while wielding them, and we’ll have to take them from him forcefully.

You find him down the broken cloister, and after a small scuffle he maims you and runs into the caves below the ruins, so you have to chase after him… Into a spider’s nest. Fighting your way through the spiders, you find Webmistress Shinaris webbing a victim before she notices you. Kill her, and Darkbough frees himself from the webbing, seemingly a lot more sane. He says you’re much more capable of protecting them than himself, so offers them to you as Ebonfang returns to take you back to the Dreamgrove.

DruGuar

Guardian – Claws of Ursoc

As morbid if it was the case, these aren’t the actual claws of the bear demigod Ursoc. These are fist weapons made of titansteel and gifted to the Wild God from Keeper Freya to aid him in battle until his death in the War of the Ancients. Although his body faded away, the claws remained and have been said to contain a fragment of his spirit inside of them. Druids took the claws from Ursoc’s furbolg followers and returned them to the Emerald Dream to Ursoc for his spirit to safeguard.

We’re told to go and find Lea Stonepaw and the Druids of the Claw inside the Tel’Andu Barrow Den inside the Dreamgrove to find out information on where to find Ursoc. She’s very protective of the claws and is cold toward you until she realises that you’re no novice Druid. She tells you to draw water from the moonwell in the Dreamgrove and then meet her in the Grizzly Hills at the fallen world tree Vordrassil, site of two warring furbolg clans.

When we reach Lea, she tells us that magical wards were placed to prevent anyone from reaching the claws after they were sealed away. The only way to get through the wards is through the power of a demigod, such as Ursoc’s brother, Ursol. In order to summon the brother, we have to search for offerings to Ursol on the fallen furbolg shaman bodies.

After searching the bodies (where apparently you can rigorously search them by spam clicking to get more than one shaman’s pounch), Lea can now start summoning Ursol. Once he is summoned, she pleads with him that the Legion has returned and asks for his aid in recovering the claws.

Ursol then requires you to go under a set of three trials to prove to him that the spirit of the bear resides inside you, so that you can wield the power of the claws. The first task is simple, just kill one furbolg spirit. The second a little more challenging with a few waves of furbolgs before the final one where you have to protect Lea from waves of furbolgs coming from different directions. Once all three trials are completed, you gain Ursol’s blessing to enter the Dream and retrieve the claws.

When you enter the dream, you find Ursoc’s Lair covered in fog and the Nightmare vines. Satyr pollute the Dream here and we find the spirit of Ursoc himself fighting them off. When we meet with him, he give us permission to take them, though Lea has to cast a ritual to drop the barrier protecting them. While she does this, we again have to fight off waves of enemies, though this time we also gain the aid of a Verdant Warder to heal us, while Mylune the frost nymph proceeds to cast Starfall in terrible locations. When the waves have been defeated, you can then claim your prize, the Claws of Ursoc!

However, just as you’re about to pick them up the Shade of Xavius, Lord of the Nightmare, turns up and stuns everyone in the party, before kidnapping Ursoc and making his lackey, Arch-Desecrator Malithar, take the Claws to kill us off. Finish him off and we finally get to take the claws for ourselves – Ursoc make have been taken, but at least we have the claws in order to help get him back! Lea will leave you here to track down Xavius and return with Ursoc while we go back to the Dreamgrove to speak with Arch Druid Greathoof.

On your return Greathoof mourns the loss of Ursoc, but congratulates your acquisition of the claws.

DruResto

Restoration – G’Hanir, the Mother Tree

While Restoration’s back story to their artifact is about as well known as Feral’s, at least G’Hanir has been used in previous lore. Cited as the first tree, the demigod Aviana gifted a branch of it to the first druids to aid them in achieving complete harmony with nature, allowing them to tap into deeply powerful restorative spells. More recently, the branch has been used as a weapon against the corruption of the Nightmare, though contact has been lost with the druids beneath Shaladrassil.

The quest starts with you speaking with Keeper Remulos, telling you to go see the forest nymph Mylune who will take you to the hidden location underneath Shaladrassil where the staff is being kept. When you approach her, she and many other woodland creatures around her seem distressed, and she warns you that G’Hanir’s corrupted, and that we have to go into the Emerald Dream in order to retrieve it.

In order to enter the Dream, you must grab a cup of moonwater from the moonwell in the Dreamgrove, and be blessed by an ancient. Leafbeard will give you the blessing, and right next to him the moonwell already has cups ready for you. When you return to Mylune, she tells you to meet with Naralex deep within the barrow dens in the Dreamgrove to complete the ritual to allow you to transition into the Dream.

When you enter, you find that you have a corruption bar slowly ticking up. Healing yourself will decrease the corruption, though getting hit by anything or standing in red will cause it to tick up faster, so keep rolling heals over time on yourself and be sure to not get into too many conflicts at once. Dispel the roots on the druid in front of you, and make your way out of the barrow dens to find G’Hanir, corrupted, in the middle of the Dreamgrove’s Dream version. (dream, dream, dream… Blizzard always being brilliant with their synonyms.)

When you grab it, you’re prompted to wake back up again, and you’re instructed to go meet with Lyessa Bloomwatcher (the druid you cleared of roots and helped you get G’Hanir just now) up above. You’re then told to go for a short trip through the Dreamway to Mount Hyjal in order to cleanse G’Hanir in the waters of Nordrassil, as the World Tree was born from an acorn of G’Hanir.

Arriving at Mount Hyjal however shows a very different scene to what we know of Nordrassil: the lake is almost completely drained and there’s a Legion gateway standing in its place. The ground is littered with demonic corpses, and notable druids are all either incapacitated or injured around the devastation. Skylord Omnuron lets you know what’s happened there, and tells you to heal the other druids to prepare for the ritual while he goes back to the Dreamgrove. Dispelling Zen’tabra and healing Celestine and Hamuul to full brings them to the ritual site, and you can begin.

As soon as the ritual starts however, the pit lord Destromath (finally the servers get their name in the game!) comes through the Legion gateway, and it’s up to you and the druids you just helped to hold him back while Lyessa finishes the ritual. After some time, Aviana arrives and throws Destromath into a cyclone of winds, effectively removing him from the fight so you can give G’Hanir to Lyessa to finish the ritual. Once that happens, you are able to take the purified G’Hanir from the waters, and call upon the wisps of Hyjal to detonate themselves upon the demon lord.

Returning to the Dreamgrove allows Lyessa to formally grant you the title of the Guardian of G’Hanir as the protector of life and guardian of the Dream.

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Balance spec has been removed…

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Given the massive information drop we received on Friday with the latest alpha notes for Warlords of Draenor, I’m surprised Blizzard didn’t preface the Moonkin changes as:

  • The Balance specialisation has been removed from Druids.
  • A new specialisation, Moonk, has been added for Druids, focusing on spell casting to deal damage.
  • The Moonk specialisation has been renamed Balance to avoid confusion.

Especially as that’s what they’ve done with some of the healing spells… The changes that are being proposed to us completely changes how Balance Druids will play from 6.0 onwards. I’m still trying to get my own head around it, but this is easily the biggest progression of the eclipse energy and overall feel of the Moonkin role we’ve seen to date since the start of Wrath.

For those that missed it, or haven’t clicked the link at the top of the thread, here’s the rundown of what’s changing for us in 6.0. Do note that it’s alpha, and with such radical changes I’m pretty sure some of this will change by the time it hits beta, let alone live servers:

  • Balance Energy is a bar that automatically cycles back and forth between Lunar and Solar sides, like night and day. The closer to one end that the bar is, the more damage that side’s spells do.
  • Balance Druids now have four rotational spells.
    • Starfire: Lunar direct damage spell
      • Cast when the Lunar side is stronger
    • Wrath: Solar direct damage spell
      • Cast when the Solar side is stronger
    • Moonfire: Lunar periodic damage spell. While closer to Solar, this button is replaced with Sunfire, a Solar periodic damage spell.
      • Maintain both effects where possible
    • Starsurge: Direct damage spell that benefits from whichever side is stronger. Has up to 3 charges, and buffs the damage of the next few Wrath or Starfire.
      • Cast when able to follow up with a few strong Wrath or Starfire.


That’s the basics of the new Moonkin rotation. There’s room for improvement beyond that, learning to optimally maintain both periodic damage effects with the strongest Eclipse effect, timing Starsurges to optimize the benefit of its buff, make use of Starfall and Hurricane for area damage, and taking advantage of the strengths of each side (such as Moonfire and Sunfire having significant differences now). Here are the full details of the changes.

  • Balance Energy system has been redesigned. Balance Energy is a bar that cycles back and forth between Lunar and Solar sides, like night and day, with a 30 second cycle time (from Lunar to Solar and back to Lunar).
    • Balance Energy is no longer generated through spells, talents, or other effects anymore.
  • Eclipse has been redesigned.
    • Eclipse inspires the Druid with the power of the moon and the sun, causing the damage of Lunar and Solar spells to be increased by up to 30% based on how close Balance Energy levels are to the appropriate side.
      • Example: With 0 Balance Energy, the damage bonus is evenly split between Lunar and Solar, and the Druid receives a 15% increase to damage for both spell types. With 80 Solar Energy, the Druid receives a 27% damage increase to Solar spells and a 3% damage increase to Lunar spells.
    • Mastery: Total Eclipse now increases the maximum damage bonus of Eclipse by 12% (increasing with Mastery).
  • Starfire now has a 3 second cast time (up from 2.7 seconds).
  • Moonfire now has a 16 second base duration (up from 14 seconds), but is no longer extended by Starfire and Starsurge critical strikes.
  • Sunfire now has a 16 second duration (up from 14 seconds), but is no longer extended by Wrath and Starsurge critical strikes. Additionally, Sunfire is no longer its own spell. Sunfire replaces Moonfire on the action bar whenever Balance Energy is on the Solar side. Enemies may still suffer from both Moonfire and Sunfire’s periodic damage components simultaneously.
  • Lunar Shower has been redesigned and renamed Astral Showers.
    • Astral Showers calls upon greater Lunar and Solar energy to permanently empower the Druid’s Moonfire and Sunfire spells.
      • Moonfire initial damage is increased by 100%, and the duration of its periodic damage effect is increased by 100%.
      • Sunfire initial damage is increased by 100%, and its periodic damage effect is now applied to all enemies within 5 yards of the target.
  • Starsurge now has 3 charges and a 30 second recharge time (instead of a 15 second cooldown). Starsurge now also grants Lunar or Solar Empowerment.
    • Lunar Empowerment causes the next 2 Starfire to deal 30% more damage.
    • Solar Empowerment causes the next 3 Wrath to deal 30% more damage.
  • Starfall now shares charges with Starsurge, and has no cooldown of its own. It also now hits all nearby enemies (up from 2 nearby enemies).
  • Shooting Stars now adds 1 full charge of Starsurge and Starfall when it triggers, and now has a 2.5% chance to trigger on Moonfire and Sunfire periodic damage. This chance is doubled on critical strikes.
  • Hurricane range has been increased to 35 yards (up from 30 yards).
  • Astral Storm has been removed.
  • Wild Mushroom (Balance) now begins snaring enemies immediately when summoned, lasts 20 seconds, and can no longer be detonated to deal damage.
  • Celestial Alignment has been redesigned.
    • Celestial Alignment causes the Druid to enter Celestial Alignment, a state where Balance Energy cycle is paused, and all Lunar and Solar spells benefit from the maximum Eclipse bonus. Lasts 15 seconds with a 3 minute cooldown.
  • Astral Communion now increases the rate that Balance Energy cycles by 300% while channeled.
  • Euphoria has been removed.
  • Insect Swarm has been redesigned and renamed Stellar Flare.
    • Stellar Flare is a powerful spell benefitting from both Lunar and Solar Eclipse, dealing the most damage when they are equal. Burns the target for Spellstorm damage and cause additional damage over 15 seconds. The ability has a cast time of 1.5 seconds.
  • Soul of the Forest (Balance) has been redesigned.
    • Soul of the Forest (Balance) now increases the damage bonus from Lunar and Solar Empowerment by an additional 30%.
  • Equinox has been replaced with a new talent, Balance of Power.
  • Sunfall has been replaced with a new talent, Euphoria.
    • Euphoria grants the Druid a deeper connection to the stars, causing Balance Energy to cycle 50% faster. Additionally, Starsurge also grants 20% Haste for 6 seconds.
  • Several Glyphs and Draenor Perks will be redesigned in a future build, and so are currently TBD.
    • Glyph of Omens
    • Glyph of Sudden Eclipse
    • Empowered Starfall
    • Enhanced Mushrooms
    • Enhanced Starsurge
    • Enhanced Storms

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So the main change for us seems to be that our pendulum of power in our eclipse mechanic has changed to be something that cycles through time-based (every 30 seconds, 15 if talented) as opposed to based on how many Wraths, Starfires or Starsurges we cast. Out of combat, it will continue to cycle until we’re at the middle of our eclipse bar, so there’s no more starting fights at a particular spot on the eclipse line for pre-pull, but at least we’ll have 15% Nature/Arcane damage buff, as opposed to 27%/3%.

I do wonder what the end numbers will be like for the DPET (Damage per Execution Time) for Wrath and Starfire, as we may see either one still being used past the midpoint, say at 10%/20% (arcane/nature) eclipse we still use Starfire, purely because the DPET for Starfire is that much stronger than Wrath’s, for example. It would go against Blizzard’s plans to try and not get addons like WeakAuras to tell us what to cast when, but with this design unless they balance it well enough not just against each other in the eclipse bar, but to also balance Moonkins against other classes we’re going to be seeing the top Druids depend on addons much like how many people depended on addons like AffDots in MoP for max numbers.

Besides, the closer we are to an edge, the more damage we do with that school of magic, so with procs and that, we will likely want the buildup of power too, instead of just the max power at the start  of the fight. Plus, at first glance this seems to help us a ton at lower gear levels – hopefully we shouldn’t be deadweights in challenge modes or proving grounds because we can’t cycle our eclipses fast enough.

world-of-warcraft-moonkin

The next huge change is to Starsurge itself… One that I’m sad to see as I’ve grown accustomed to my machine gun in SoO, but overall probably for the best for Moonks in the long run. At the moment, we’ve had to have ourselves nerfed each tier to avoid just spamming Starsurge all the time which ended up getting our chicken nuggets chopped off at low gear levels. Now, our Starsurge has 3 maximum charges that recharge over 30 seconds… That’s one per eclipse cycle! Shooting Stars still exists, but the proc chance has been nerfed down to 5% chance on Moonfire/Sunfire crits, but also a 2.5% chance on non-crits. It now adds a charge of Starsurge to be used, though I’m not sure if it still turns it instant cast. When you cast it, it will also increase the  damage of the next 2 Starfires or next 3 Wraths (depending on what eclipse you’re in) by 30%.

In addition to Starsurge’s charges, we also see Starfall have charges too – the kicker is that these charges are linked with Starsurge. Now we’ll be casting Starfall in AoE situations (likely where all stars will be used, so on 2+ targets AT LEAST, depending on DPET and theorycrafting when the numbers are there), and likely only in Lunar as well.

astral-swarmIn terms of AoE, we’ve lost Astral Storm, and the AoE damage on mushrooms have now gone as well  – including what we had in previous builds where Hurricane damage increased the power of shrooms too. Instead, our Hurricane is our main AoE damage source for Solar, as well as the new Sunfire. When in Solar eclipse, Moonfire turns into Sunfire, and the new Astral Showers (replacing Lunar Shower) allows the Sunfire DOT to affect all nearby targets within 5yds. Spam it on everyone and fill in the gaps with Hurricane until you hit Lunar for Starfall, and we could actually have competent AoE once more.

Celestial Alignment gets updated too with a minor change: It still does the same as it does now in allowing you to do full damage for 15 seconds on a 3min cooldown, again that full damage being affected by how much mastery you’ve got. The minor tweak however is that you don’t get reset to 0 energy afterwards – it freezes the spot you’re in and you can continue where you left off afterwards. I can imagine the best DPS benefit from this is to cast it a few seconds before max Lunar, so you get to benefit from strong Lunar damage afterwards, especially with Incarnation. Though with the increase in cast time on Starfire and the loss of Nature’s Grace it all depends on the DPET.

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All of our level 100 talents have had overhauls as a result of our fundamental spec changes too – I wouldn’t be surprised to see more changes in our tier 4 talents outside of Soul of the Forest. But for the 100’s, we see Insect Swarm turn into Stellar Flare (I’m hoping for the name to be changed, not only do we not need another SF acronym to confuse with Starfall and Starfire, it sounds terrible). The main reasons for it being changed seems to be to include the spellstorm component to stop it being used solely in nature eclipse, and we also lose the eclipse energy regen from IS too, as we’re now on the time-based pendulum.

Equinox had to be replaced, of course, as the old version of it meant that we stayed in eclipse until we procced a new one. Admittedly, it would be an interesting talent to be able to stay at max Arcane damage for 15secs, then stay at max Nature damage for 15secs, but alongside the overall changes to eclipse, I think it’s best that a talent modifying it in such a way is best left until later expansions, perhaps. Balance of Power that replaces it seems kind of bland, but it’s the passive effect for those not wanting extra buttons, and with Moonfire and Sunfire no longer being increased in duration by Wrath/Starfire crits, it seems a little odd to have this talent in at 100. I haven’t heard Celestalon mention anything about DOT snapshotting still affecting eclipses (we were the exception where it still mattered in 6.0), so it’ll be interesting to take this talent for those fights with extended AoE period longer than 16secs to tab up multiple Sunfires then maintain them with Wraths.

With having no non-eclipse state, Euphoria has been removed, as has been mentioned in the notes above, and a new Euphoria makes an appearance at level 100 in our talents. The same feel for the spell has been kept, in increasing our eclipse cycles, but this seems very powerful to increase it by 100%. It means we get 15 second full eclipse cycles – 7.5 seconds from 100 solar to 100 lunar. With Starfire on a base 3sec cast time, I can see why Starsurge gives us 20% haste on cast: Starsurge at near-max solar means that we might get a Starfire at mid-eclipse, max-lunar and mid-eclipse again.

I’m pretty happy that Soul of the Forest keeps itself as a passive ability, but essentially turning it into a mastery bucket seems like a boring way to change it. I wouldn’t mind seeing another update to it, and I’m almost expecting one as it seems like a bandaid fix to the old talent being nerfed from the new eclipse changes.

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Overall, I’m quite happy with the changes presented to us. Blizzard have said that Moonkins have a steep starting curve that flattens out fairly quickly, and they hope that these changes will bring more people into the role for the first time. While I may not entirely agree with that statement, I don’t have the stats Blizzard does and that discussion is neither here nor there. The new changes looks to be setting Moonkins of all skill levels back to stage 1 again, and of course the higher caliber Druids such as Lappe, Zoomkins or Hotted are still going to pull ahead of the race (assuming they stick with Balance in 6.0), but hopefully the changes might bring more Druids into the caster role, especially without having to worry about that annoying Nature’s Grace mechanic any more.

Are we going to see Moonkins at the top of DPS meters in the next expansion? Probably not, but we’ll certainly be strong contenders on certain fights – and it seems with changes to other classes we might actually be one of the more mobile casters, despite losing instant Starsurge casts. We won’t beat Hunters for mobility, but on Patchwerk fights Blizz are designing them to be worse off anyway. All I can really round this post out with is that I hope that beta opens up soon and that I can grab myself an invite to test these new changes out. While I won’t be a Mythic progression raider in Warlords, it’s still exciting times!

 

Active Mitigation into Active Regeneration

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So these details have been out a little while now, meaning this article is largely going to be about my views on the matter now they’ve been out for some time, and what could happen in the future as a result from this, instead of a general news post with my initial reactions to the changes.

What I’m talking about is the changes healers are seeing to their mana regeneration going into 6.0 and beyond. Please note that at the time of writing this article, Warlords of Draenor is in its alpha stages, with changes happening left, right and center, so chances are details in this article are likely to change. It didn’t take long for Blizzard to re-implement Innervate for example, unless it was their plan all along to completely scrap it and rebuild it from new with a new spell ID.

The full details of the changes to healers’ mana regeneration can be found here, but I’ll list a brief overview below:

  • Druid: Innervate has been redesigned to have no cooldown, have a two second cast, and every 4 seconds for 8 seconds will restore 2.5% of their max mana. Innervate will cancel if any healing spells are cast during this time.
  • Monk: Crackling Jade Lightning will have no mana cost in Stance of the Wise Serpent (baring in mind Mistweavers can now choose between Serpent and Crane stances), and once channeled for the full 4 seconds will restore 2% of their max mana.
  • Paladin: Divine Plea has been redesigned to have no cooldown, but now consumes 3 Holy Power to restore 7% of max mana.
  • Discipline Priest: Penance now restores 1.1% of max mana every time it hits, but no longer triggers Atonement.
  • Holy Priest: Red Chakra (Chastise) will cause Smite and Holy Fire to restore 0.75% of max mana instead of costing mana.
  • Shaman: Telluric Currents is now (finally) passive for Resto Shamans. Casting Lightning Bolt will restore 1.25% of max mana instead of costing mana.

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So it looks like Blizz have taken a look at Mistweaver Monks and Power Word: Solace, and decided that they like that particular model of regenerating your mana in a more active role, as opposed to a button you just pressed every couple of minutes to greatly regen your mana like the Innervate or Divine Plea we’re used to in Mists. Just like how Blood Shield for Blood DKs was kind of a testing ground for what all tanks eventually received in Mists through active mitigation, it seems that all healers now get this active mana regeneration model as a result of the success with Priests and Monks.

I have to say, I’m most intrigued by the Druid and Paladin ones. The Druid one less so, but they both have something a little more unique than “deal damage to regen mana” – something that builds upon the Monk’s mechanic for Mana Tea. We’ve had Telluric Currents for years, just slapping the same thing onto both three more specs doesn’t make it any more interesting. What about something like “Every 3 Renews you cast makes your next healing spell cost no mana” or bring in the return of mp5 through saying something like “Not casting a healing spell for 5 seconds will increase your spirit by X%”. Monks could make use of their secondary resource, chi, to instantly restore something like 0.5% of max mana – baring in mind that spending chi gives them stacks for their tea too, it could be a good way to actively dump throughput to gain a ton of mana back.

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I think the active mitigation model has worked extremely well in Mists, even going as far to say that out of them all, ironically the Death Knights are the tanks that seems to be the weakest and most dependent on lucky streaks from dodge and parry in order to stay alive. But what’s worked out the best is that because of all the different resources tanks have to increase their survivability – healers on the other hand largely just have mana to work with. Monks and Paladins have their combo points, sure, and I’m not trying to push for all healers to get some kind of combo point mechanic to spend as that’ll just feel shoved in for complexity’s sake. But simply dealing damage to regen mana just seems like boring design.

I do want to make a point on the new Innervate too: It essentially means the Druid isn’t healing for 6-10 seconds, taking the cast time into account. I don’t know if haste will have an impact for partial mana ticks at all, but it does involve a bit of communication with the raid to only expect heals to tick out for the next few seconds – if we’re going into Mythic raiding with 4-5 healers, that means for 6-10secs at a time raids are going to have to make up 20-25% healing while an Innervate is going out. With triage healing being the focus of the expansion, with Blizzard planning to reduce the huge damage output and expecting raids to spend most of their time at sub-100%, it’s going to take a lot of intuition of the encounter for Druids to time their Innervates correctly without being tempted to throw a Wild Growth out or sweep a few extra Rejuv’s out. What Blizzard are telling Druids to do with Innervate in its current form is to essentially do nothing while they regen mana, as casting will negate the regeneration from Innervate anyway.

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So yeah, I’m complaining about using damage to regen, and I’m complaining about one of the few mechanics that doesn’t involve using damage to regen mana. I sound like the average forum user… The proof is in the pudding, Blizzard made active mitigation work extremely well for tanks – it certainly breaks up the main problem I have with tanks: long periods of nothing to do, maybe taunt every so often, but then suddenly all the weight of an encounter is on your shoulders, and you could be the cause of a wipe. It’s up to the tank to be able to cope with the sudden switch in responsibility, so for those that tend to lose focus from boredom, this active mitigation model certainly makes much more interactive gameplay.

It makes me think about the future though – if this active mana regeneration model works out well for healers, could it be something we see for DPS? Perhaps removing some DPS cooldowns to combo some abilities together to grant more damage. As much as people hate it, Rune of Power from Mages could be a good template to start from, or Steady Focus on Marksmanship Hunters.