Monday, October 6, 2008

Why Eclipse sucks and how to make it better

Quick update: got me my Fiery Enchant recipe, after the 8th kill. And so far, buisness ain't booming. Did a little bit of /2 spam, but there may not be a market for the 19/29 enchants, or at least not now and not on my server.

So let's talk talents, because that's what I intended to write about when I started this blog and named it "Talented." Note the banner. I made that in ten minutes, and I think I already hate it. What I'ma try to do is find that demon magic (PHP) that lets you queue up a different image every time the page loads. That way I can make a bunch of banners with different icons and color schemes to go with 'em. I just really like the Arcane Flows icon for some reason, so I used it.

Why Eclipse sucks

NOW let's talk talents. Specifically, let's talk Eclipse. It's a new deep Balance talent for Wrath. Also, it's apparently supposed to make our spell rotation slightly more interesting. I've done a bit of saying "Eclipse sucks" around these parts, and I still think it does. The numbers have changed slightly since it was first seen in the earliest stages of Wrath, but the concept of the talent remains the same. So what does Eclipse do?

3 ranks
Requires 40 points in Balance talents
When you critically hit with Starfire, you have a 100% chance of increasing damage done by Wrath by 10%. When you critically hit with Wrath, you have a 60% chance of increasing your critical strike chance with Starfire by 15%. Effect lasts 15 sec and has a 30 sec cooldown.

The idea is, you spam one nuke until you get a proc, and then you switch to your other nuke. Some parts of it sound alright, but there's a fundamental problem with this spell, and it's that it isn't useful at all. And here's why.

In PvE, you spam Starfire and keep Moonfire up. At least, that's how you do it in Burning Crusade. I think you can slip in Insect Swarm if you want to, and Blizz even wants us slipping in Faerie Fire (specifically, Improved Faerie Fire) for that wicked 3% to crit. But what some have already found IIRC is that the DPS loss from refreshing FF isn't worth the debuff.

Now, theoretically, the Starfire-to-Wrath proc is for PvE. You're spamming Starfire, you crit with Starfire, you get wicked 10% buff to Wrath for 15 seconds. Sounds great right? Naw. Why do Balance Druids spam Starfire and not Wrath? Wrath does more damage in 3 seconds than Starfire, but you're just killing your mana pool by keeping up the Wrath spam, and all your Nature's Grace procs stand to make you burn mana even faster.

Now, I don't know the numbers. A lot has happened with mana regen over the course of the Wrath beta; lots of casters saying they need more manas, Spirit has came back in a big way, on gear and in odd Spirit-to-something-more-useful talents and abilities. Maybe launching the light-blue balls will actually be OK; maybe it will be OK for the 15 seconds this buff lasts. But, you'll be able to keep it up for half of a boss fight. The effect lasts 15 seconds, and then you've got another 15 seconds before it procs. And the proc rate is 100% when you crit, so that's almost half a boss fight worth of Wrath spam, which I'd imagine is not good for your mana pool.

Bottom line: temporary Wrath damage does not incentivize casting it during a boss fight. If we could afford more damage, we would spam Wrath anyway.


Now let's move on to the other proc, that goes from Wrath to Starfire, and increases the crit chance of Starfire by 15%, which is a lot. Now, at first this seems like the PvP side of the talent; like all 1.5 second spells, it's the favored spell in PvP for it's short cast time. This buff could also have PvE uses, but the changes to downranking have lessened its potential use.

By spamming Rank 1 Wrath until it crits, you could get the Starfire buff and then continue on as usual, but with a huge crit bonus for 15 seconds. Along with this idea goes the usual disclaimer that the numbers would have to be crunched. By even spamming a Rank 1 spell for a proc you're cutting into your DPS, and the proc only happens on 60% of spell crits. But, that's its potential use in PvE. These two abilities seem partially designed to work in tandem.

Now we go back to the PvP use of this side of Eclipse. With Wrath being the PvP spell, you're most likely to see this pop up when fighting other dudes. When I was discussing the SF2W proc, I said I think it's useless because PvE Druids mostly spam SF and mostly only spam SF. The same logic applies here, but in reverse: I wouldn't wind up a SF unless the enemy wasn't focused on me, and if they are only if they're rooted in place by me or someone else. And Frost Mage I ain't.

How to make Eclipse better

So what would I do? I would design the talent to better incentivize the casting of "the other nuke," be it Wrath of SF. An example tooltip:

x ranks
Requires x points in Balance talents
When you critically hit with Wrath, you have a x% chance to gain Lunar Eclipse, reducing the cast time of your next Starfire spell by 1.5 sec.
When you critically hit with Starfire, you have a x% chance to gain Solar Eclipse, causing your next Wrath spell to become instant cast and cost no mana. Each effect lasts 10 sec and both effects share a 30 sec cooldown.

Yes, I know I pretty much stole both ideas. Lunar Eclipse is like the 4-piece set bonus, Wrath of Elune, from the Balance Druid PvP gear. Solar Eclipse is like Brain Freeze in the Frost Mage trees. But, those are both fantastic bonuses and talents and give you an idea of how to make Eclipse better in concept.

While spamming Wrath in PvP, you suddenly get a SF with the same cast time; I've used it tons of times in PvP and it rocks. It's awesome. Then, while spamming SF in PvE, you get a chance to throw a free Wrath, incurring only a global cooldown for your trouble.

I have that goofy Balance tree I keep talking about, and this talent is on there. I really think its a good idea; I'd take it over the current Eclipse any day. I meant to do the blog series on that, and yet I've iterated on the tree several times now. Eclipse is currently in the 10th tier, sitting next to a 3-point Earth and Moon as a 2-point talent. I have it set as a 25/50% proc rate for both.

I'm all for making spell rotation more interesting through talents. We haven't seen much of it, but what there is is promising. A lot of Mage examples come to mind, including Missile Barrage, Fiery Payback, Firestarter, and Brain Freeze. Blizz has said on the beta forums that this is an issue they've been thinking about, but one that they don't feel they want to pull off this expansion. So when we're all level 90... man, that'll be the day.

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