Balance Druids – Sine-Wave Eclipse

There had been whispers about major Balance druid changes for a couple of months. Blizzard certainly made a few major changes this past week. (They practically redesigned the spec!)

Balance druids use a unique resource called “Eclipse.” It has existed since The Burning Crusade and has been steadily changing every expansion. In Warlords of Draenor, Eclipse is getting overhauled again. The design change is very different from the current iteration (Cata & MOP). Some other important changes include Starfall and Starsurge, as well as a few other spells.

Zoomkins said it best:

Due to the nature of the alpha/beta process, the contents of this article have been updated to provide accurate information.

Please note, you may find the official patch notes by clicking “Source” in the header below. I found these changes to be the most important to note. This list is a summary of those important changes, but is not the complete list.

Originally posted by Warlords of Draenor™ Alpha Patch Notes 05-23-2014 (Druid) (Source)



Eclipse Mechanics

  • Mechanic: Sine-wave Eclipse.
    • Full-cycle: 40 sec. (100 Lunar to 100 Lunar.)
    • Eclipse Bar Movement: Bar moves slower while near “100 energy” and faster while closer to “0 energy.”
    • Example of Eclipse Bonus (baseline: 30%):
      • If we are at 100 Lunar Eclipse, we get 100% Lunar and 0% Solar bonuses. (30|0)
      • If we are at 0 Eclipse, we get 50% Lunar and 50% Solar bonuses. (15|15)

Starfire & Wrath

  • Mechanic: Primary nuke/filler.
    • Baseline Casttime:
      • Starfire: 3.0 sec
      • Wrath: 2.0 sec
    • No longer extends Moonfire or Sunfire on Critical Hit.
    • Modified by Eclipse & Starsurge Empowerment. (see Starsurge below)

Moonfire & Sunfire

  • Mechanic: Damage-Over-Time (+ Direct Damage).
    • Chance to trigger Shooting Stars.
    • Duration: 20 sec.
    • “Snapshots” Eclipse Bonus.
    • Astral Showers (Passive):
      • Moonfire: Now lasts 40 sec.
      • Sunfire: Spreads the damage-over-time potion to enemies within 5 yards of the target.

Shooting Stars

  • Mechanic: Chance on most-recent Moonfire and Sunfire tick. (Exactly like Nightfall for Warlocks)
    • Proc Rate: 5% (double on Critical Strike).
    • Maximum Charges: 3
    • Used for Starsurge & Starfall
    • Recharge Rate: 30 sec.

Starsurge

  • Mechanic: Charged-based nuke. (Instant cast.)
    • Shares charges with Starfall.
    • Successfully casting Starsurge empowers your Starfire or Wrath based on your current Eclipse.
      • Lunar Empowerment: Increases damage done by your next 2 Starfires by 30%. Lasts 30sec.
      • Solar Empowerment: Increases damage done by your next 3 Wraths by 30%. Lasts 30sec.

Starfall

  • Mechanic: Area-of-Effect.
    • Shares charges with Starsurge.
    • Hits all enemy targets within 40 yards of the druid.
    • No cap to number of stars that may be dropped.

Spells that were removed or changed.

  • Notable:
    • Nature’s Grace (removed)
    • Euphoria (removed)
    • Wild Mushroom: Detonate (removed)
    • Celestial Alignment (*)
    • Astral Communion
    • Many talents, glyphs, and perks must be redesigned.


*Click here for Celestial Alignment changes*

I know it may be a lot to soak at one time, don’t stress over everything at once. The biggest change is how Eclipse will work in Warlords of Draenor. “Sine-wave Eclipse” sounds scary, right? Well, it’s not. We have very little control over the Eclipse Bar in 6.0 compared to 5.4.8. As noted, our new Eclipse-cycle speed will be 40sec (there and back). This means that we’ll be in one of our Eclipse states for 10sec at a time (Half-cycle is 20sec, which is both Lunar and Solar). The Eclipse bar will sit at maximum Eclipse for a short time. The bonus damage from Eclipse is dynamic: The closer to 100 Eclipse the bar sits, you deal greater damage. If the bar is closer to 0 Eclipse, you deal less damage. Damage bonus is calculated when the spell fires. It is a very smooth damage-bonus curve, including the caps (because we cannot exceed 100 Eclipse Energy.

Lunar = MAX(-100,MIN(100,105*SIN(t*pi/20))) — starting from 0 eclipse, going lunar
Lunar = MAX(-100,MIN(100,105*COS(t*pi/20))) — starting at 100 lunar eclipse
 Solar = MAX(-100,MIN(100,-105*SIN(t*pi/20)))*(-1) — starting from 0 eclipse, going lunar
 Solar = MAX(-100,MIN(100,-105*COS(t*pi/20)))*(-1) — starting at 100 lunar eclipse

Another major concern for players is how hard it could be to maximize damage during “Peak Eclipse.” Since we have no true control on Eclipse, we’re really locked to a specific spell at a specific time. All of this is true, but sine-waves are more interesting than you may suspect. It’s not immediately noticeable on paper; but, as noted above, you actually sit near the peaks of Eclipse longer (near 100 Eclipse) and sail through the middle faster (near 0 Eclipse). Sine-wave is quite forgiving. It sounds more difficult than it really is. Honestly, it’s easier than Eclipse-cycling in Mists of Pandaria.

The mathematics above correspond to the charts and graphs below.

As we can see, we tend to stay near peak Eclipse much longer. And we sit near maximum Eclipse for quite a while. This means sine-wave is forgiving to most mechanics. Other issues exist, but for now, lets look at the relative times we stay in a particular phase of Eclipse:

  • Peak (30-25%) :: 56.2% (22.48sec : 40sec cycle)
  • Midway (25-20%) :: 23.2% (9.28sec : 40sec cycle)
  • Down (20-15%) :: 20.6% (8.24sec : 40sec cycle)

Casting with Sine-Eclipse:

How would you compare WOD Balance druids to MOP Balance druids? (WOD has/will be…)

  • …More hardcasting, less instants.
  • …Easier to learn, easier to master.
  • …More forgiving, less reward for skillful play.

Starfire or Wrath, when should I cast these?

  • If the bar is closer to Lunar Eclipse, cast Starfire.
  • If the bar is closer to Solar Eclipse, cast Wrath.

When do I refresh Moonfire?

  • You don’t refresh more than once per full-cycle. Try to land it in the maximum zone. (100 Eclipse, it’s also a 5sec window.)

When do I refresh Sunfire?

  • …to keep it short, we’re still working out when to refresh Sunfire. Most likely the case: right as you hit Solar Eclipse’s side, then again with ~6.0sec left on Sunfire while headed towards Lunar Eclipse. (You’ll be in Solar Eclipse at this time.) I don’t know yet. No one knows yet. But that is one way to make it 100% uptime due to DOT clipping changes. (We may clip DOTs 30% early.)

When do I cast Starsurge?

  • Since you’re guaranteed a charge of Shooting Stars every 30sec, it lines up nicely with Lunar Eclipse, or Solar Eclipse. Lunar Eclipse should do slightly more than Solar Eclipse for single-target. As such, you want to try and line up Starsurge so that you are casting Starfire near 100 Lunar Eclipse (for maximum damage). You will not be swimming in Shooting Stars procs. So it’s more important to time your Starsurge casts properly. Casting Starsurge in Solar Eclipse is fine to. Ideally, you still want to cast buffed Wraths near 100 Solar Eclipse, just as you would Starfire and Lunar Eclipse. Unless you’re bursting something down, you should hold onto at least 1 proc at all times. Hold 2 procs if you’re nearing a peak Eclipse. If you have 3 procs, you need to use a charge very soon (50 Eclipse going towards 100 Eclipse — so you don’t miss a proc, or stop Shooting Stars from charging.) It is not optimal to use near a transition period for Eclipse states (nearing 0 Eclipse) because you will have a Starfire buff, but might be in Solar Eclipse (thus wasteful/sub-optimal).

When do I cast Starfall?

  • You don’t cast Starfall for single-target. Starfall is now an AOE-only ability. It won’t do much damage to a single enemy; but, with an unlimited cap, Starfall has amazing meter-padding potential. We don’t know when Starfall is “worth more” than Starsurge yet. The numbers have not been tuned.

When do I cast Hurricane?

  • With Astral Storm and Wild Mushrooms gone from our AOE toolkit, you cast Hurricane whenever there is a large enough group of enemies (not sure when that is though, possibly as low as 5 targets). Be sure to use Sunfire and Starfall prior to Hurricane. Hurricane isn’t spellstorm damage yet, however, Starfall might be “Lunar AOE” while Hurricane and Sunfire are “Solar AOE.” (You can still press Starfall for Solar AOE, and it comes highly-recommended.)

What happened to Celestial Alignment?

  • When activated, it pauses the Eclipse bar.
  • Grants maximum Eclipse Bonus for the duration.
  • Further increases damage dealt by 20%.
  • Duration: 15 sec.
  • Applies both Moonfire and Sunfire to the target. This will apply Sunfire to all nearby enemies (applies the DOT, but not the direct damage portion).
  • Most like going to be used on the opener, possibly a couple seconds after entering combat to stay in the “peak” of your damage, rather than go through ~3sec of “mediocre damage.” This gives time for trinket procs and such. Just a theory.

Does Eclipse Energy only move in combat?

  • Correct, Eclipse only moves during combat. In addition, Eclipse does not decay rapidly when out of combat. It will decay to 0 Eclipse, of course; but, it rest until you enter combat again. Mind you, it will take a full-cycle to actually “decay to 0 and rest.” (Plus, it doesn’t take long to reach “peak Eclipse” from 0, so there’s nothing to worry about here.) If you are questing, doing dungeons, anything with quick pulls, you’ll see the bar move nonstop. If you raid, it won’t be moving pre-pull.

When do I use Astral Communion?

  • Astral Communion (AC) no longer works out of combat. (Rather, it has no effect.) AC increases our Eclipse-cycling speed by 300% (x4 the rate). This will serve as our in-combat “need it now” Eclipse button. On a personal note, I would like to see AC removed and replaced with a button that does what AC intends to do. I’d much rather see an “Invert Eclipse Power & Direction” button (with a fair cooldown, of course.) Marginal skill-cap increase. It fulfills the intended use. And it’s really not a single-target increase if you make it consume a charge of Shooting Stars. The main reason is that AC is designed for a different Eclipse system and should be changed accordingly.

What about Wild Mushrooms?

  • Wild Mushrooms are no longer part of the AOE toolkit. Purely utility. It needs to be tweaked a little, but it’s not a huge concern at the moment.

What stat is the best?

  • Intellect. (Or… did you want to know about Haste, Mastery, Crit, Readiness, and Multi-Strike?)
  • All stats should be relatively close in the effective DPS they provide. However, I believe Readiness will be very lacking. Mastery seems strong right now.

Why do you favor Mastery at this time?

  • Well, Mastery would be up 100% of the time. That’s pretty important. But there is also an issue with Mastery: Eclipse snapshots, thus so does Mastery. If we get a Mastery proc after applying our DOTs, we don’t get the Mastery proc bonus at all. This can really devalue Mastery. It’s one downside discovered thus far. A possible fix is to snapshot the Eclipse Bonus with the actual Mastery value (the raw number) by converting the damage bonus from a percentage to the Mastery value. Any temporary effects, such as trinkets, will be added to that value. This would allow Mastery procs to exist dynamically within Eclipse’s snapshot mechanic.

Movement DPS:
We lost what little we had! Right now, this is my top concern. But I have nothing to suggest at this time. I have ideas, but something that needs to be polished before sharing.

  • We don’t have any movement DPS options at this time, outside of spamming Moonfire or Sunfire. The current idea is that Starsurge will be instant cast at all times. Another (very real) possibility, is that we’ll let an enemy bonk us in order to proc Owlkin Frenzy (for the perk; instant cast on next spell). I’d prefer not to do either of those options. Instant Starsurge will wreck people in PvP. Firing off 3 Starsurges, which cannot be countered, is a bit much. (Reminds me of Taste For Blood issues earlier in MOP.) with Starsurge being instant, this might be the relative standard for non-Hunter (and non-Melee) movement DPS. ProTip: Heart of the Wild is a hidden gem. (If you figure it out, I won’t tell if you won’t!)

Final Thoughts:
It will be like playing a new spec, come Warlords of Draenor. Some players will like the changes, others might not. I’m okay with the changes. They are clean. They are simple. However, I think Starsurge has too much going on. I don’t believe “Starsurge will solve all our problems,” nor should it be designed that way. I look forward to playing Balance druid on the Beta tests.

Player since WoW debut (2004). Hardcore Progression Raider with ♠Promethean♠. Balance Druid since 2012. High-end theorycrafter and active within community across everything Moonkin-related.