Boldly going where this Bear ain’t gone before

Good day to you, my friends, and welcome to what is likely to be the only WoW blog post you’ll read today that ain’t about Patch 4.2 or the Firelands.

What I wanted to share with you was my excitement and nervousness as I boldy embark on a great new adventure in the life of the Big Bear Butt.

No, I ain’t quitting WoW. Or the blog.

Some of you got your hopes up there for a second, didn’t ya?

My Druid has, for the very first time in the history of WoW, got a Moonkin spec, and I’m not afraid to use it.

I knew so little about the Moonkin lifestyle going into this that it’d be just like having someone hand you their max level character and saying, “Here, go play this for a while. Have fun, knock yourself out.”

“But what do all these things do? How do they work together?”
“Eh, you’ll figure it out.”
“Hey, why did you rename your character Farkingebaynub?”
“I believe in giving my friends fair warning.”

After reading up about the current state of the spec at Grey Matter, I find I’m pretty excited. It’s always cool to try something completely new, and this ain’t even an alt. This is my main.

The joys of playing a hybrid. Even after all these years, you can have the same character, and still do something new.

Now, before we go any further, this post ain’t to say, “Oh, look at me, I did something new, blah blah blah”. What this is about is the excitement of learning about a very rich, well imagined and implemented character class. 

Last night, after reading Graylos’ fully updated Moonkin raiding guide, and checking out the recommendations of the Twitterati, I walked away impressed with how well conceived the spec sounds now.

These days, I expect each class to be well-balanced.

I expect classes to be designed so that, in the hands of a reasonably competant player, DPS characters can reach a consistent sustained and burst damage ratio. Tanks can survive a certain amount of damage for a certain amount of time, and have cooldowns to boost spike survivability. Healers can generate positive health by a certain amount per second, to a certain number of players to handle burst and sustained damage.

Maybe one is capable of a little more burst compared to the others, or handles sustained fights with consistent output while others go silent to recoup Mana, but by and large, they’re balanced.

What surprises me about the Moonkin is how delightful the Eclipse management system sounds as a concept, how different it seems to the other caster classes I’ve played.

With the other classes, you cast a spell, it activates, and aside from what it can do, it might also trigger something else that makes another spell more powerful. Once that buff is gone, though, you start over. Warlocks can burn their Soul Shards to buff spells, but it’s still a ‘cast this, trigger something else to be buffed, cast first spell again and start sequence fresh’ type of power progression.

For the Moonkin, this whole Eclipse sounds like an amazing playstyle to flow with.

Maybe you’re a highly experienced Moonkin player, or maybe you don’t know anything about them and don’t care, but from my fresh perspective, it sounds brilliant and I’m itching to try it on level 85 bad guys.

In fact, the only thing about it that I would wish, coming at it completely fresh, is that I wish the spell names and effects were tweaked the rest of the way to really highlight that you’re channeling the raw power of the Sun or the Moon.

You have an actual Eclipse bar registering both Solar and Lunar energy. Think of it as how attuned you are to one or the other at any given time.

Some of your spells, when cast, generate Solar power, and others generate Lunar power.

When your bar is at full Solar or Lunar power, you are at an Eclipse. The corresponding power is buffed… but every time you cast that spell, you move away from full eclipse and back towards the other side. The buff remains until the moment you reach equilibrium.

The amazing thing about this mechanic, to me, is that it gives you control over when your Eclipse buff will go off. Not all of your spells cause Solar or Lunar power… and you can intentionally cast the opposing spell to drop your bar back a step.

Think of it this way, and by all means correct me if I’m wrong, but say you’re on a boss fight.

For a lot of the fight, you’re doing the best damage you can, including pushing to each Eclipse point, but at some point you want to be able to push it on command. To ‘pop all cooldowns’, to go all out. Heroism is fired, everybody on the boss.

You want to be using Eclipse to buff your spells during the fight, otherwise you are hurting yourself, sure. But you also know that when the boss falls to, say, 35% health, it’s time to go all in. And when the mark ticks 35%, that’s when you want your chosen Eclipse, Lunar or Solar, to activate.

So when the boss gets to 40% or so and you’re getting close, a Moonkin can cast a Lunar spell pushing towards a Lunar Eclipse… and then once you’re on the edge of the Eclipse, cast a Solar spell or two, bringing it back again.

At 35% boss health, you can actually cast that one last Lunar spell, tipping the bar to 100 and firing off a Lunar Eclipse, right on schedule, buffing your Lunar spells like crazy. But of course, each buffed Lunar spell you cast drops you back towards equilibrium again.

That’s so freaking cool.

As I said, my only teeny gripe about this is that some of your spells are still Nature based in name. To my mind, the idea that you are channeling the raw force of the Sun, or the more muted, radiant energy reflected off the Moon is awesome. I’d prefer all my spells to relate to this Solar/Lunar theme.

I fully understand that the Moonkin started out with pure Nature, and the Solar/Lunar thing grew later based on Moonfires and Starfires, but now the Eclipse theme is so sweet that I’d like to expand on that, and leave the Swarm of Angry little Bees Chasing Pooh the Bear behind, y’know? I’d love to see Entangling Roots become more of a Gravity Well thing to pin people down.

I ain’t crying, just saying.

And for those of you that love Moonkin and wish they’d drop Solar and Lunar Eclipse, Moonfire and stuff, and go back to pure Nature for the spell theme… I totally understand.

I personally see the Eclipse thing as being more appropriate to an Astrologer-style Mage, and seeming kind of wierd tacked on to the Owlbear.

But I love the Moonkin form, the Moonkin dance, and the Eclipse cosmology. Can I help it if I want them juxtaposed, no matter how little sense it might make?

So, off I go. I intend to try running normal instances as Moonkin to try my hand at the playstyle. I’m going to explore totally new territory.

Oh wait, I AM scared. Hold me!

Now, on to a more serious note.

The Moonkin playstyle really is not that different from other casters, except that it gives you the ability to manage a resource that has no zero point. You have a sliding scale, and at any given time, you are moving somewhere on the scale, and you can change directions at will. 

It is that aspect of the mechanic added to the traditional caster playstyle that I find very intriguing. With the help of addons like the one Graylo recommends, Balance Power, you can see exactly where you are at any given moment, and also how far the next spell you are actively casting is about to push you towards an Eclipse.

This small addition is just enough to take away the feeling that there is a specific fixed rotation to master, and instead, however mistakenly, gives me the feeling I am in control of my own destiny. I and I alone choose when I buff my spells, AND which spells will be buffed (Solar or Lunar), based on the choices I will make. The moment I unleash the power of an Eclipse will be in my hands.

It’s a small thing, but at the same time, just the idea feels more fulfilling than knowing that a spell I cast as a Mage has a chance to proc an extra buff or effect on a Crit.

I have no control over when crits go off, unless I have a spell I can trigger to make my next cast spell an auto-crit, which doesn’t have the same feel. All I can really do is stack more crit, which is a function of gear upgrades and Reforging/Gemming and Enchanting.

It’s a small thing, but it adds an excitement to the idea of playing a ranged spellcaster that had been a little lacking before.

It makes me wonder… is the way the Moonkin changed over the years a sign of how Blizzard sees class design these days? And if so, is this the level of control over our class we can expect to see them introducing in the new MMO they’ve been working on?

13 thoughts on “Boldly going where this Bear ain’t gone before

  1. I’ve recently switched off spec to moonkin and it’s a lot of fun. The caster thing is a lit different to feral – stay at ranged, keep casting a spell, any spell. Boy is typhoon fun too! The depth to the spec is apparent once you read tips on EJ, not that I have mastered it at all.

    It just feels a bit odd to have to game eclipse in an AOE situation, then spam sunfire. When am I going to get to use hurricane (and rock that trash like a hurricane)? I’ve not used hurricane since I first learned the spell, tickled some critters with it, and thought it did little damage for all it’s visual splendor.


  2. …and now, you see my absolute love at work. 🙂

    I understand what you mean when you talk about “I personally see the Eclipse thing as being more appropriate to an Astrologer-style Mage…”, but think of it this way:

    Everything in nature responds to the pull of the power of the Sun and the Moon. Therefore, the most nature-based class should absolutely be able to translate that seasonal surge. As far as spell themes, again, look what you’ve got (at 85): in lunar eclipse, moonfire, starfire and starfall…in solar eclipse, sunfire, wrath and hurricane. You throw typhoons and cyclones. Trees follow your command. Mushrooms grow and explode at your whim. Roots rise from the ground to hold off your enemies. You can use the power of the Sun to silence your tormentors.

    You are nature, incarnate. And the fury of Mother Nature is legendary. 🙂


    • I got chills reading this! So true, and why druids are TEH AWESOME!

      Boy, how some of that would come in handy in RL. Kiddo starts talking back at ya? BAM! Solar Beam your ass and see if you try that again. If only…


  3. (I have a druid alt that raids balance … sometimes… and haven’t paid much attn to 4.2 yet)

    You certainly can game your solar / lunar power … and sometimes you should. Specifically, when you are in an aoe situation, you want to be in solar eclipse (to buff nature spells) and throwing dots and ‘shrooms like crazy. This could apply to boss fights and trash. Aoe in this state is vastly more powerful than either of the other ones.

    However, outside of aoe you ideally want to spend as much time in an eclipse state as possible casting your most powerful nukes. This means refreshing dots and fiddling around right as you enter eclipse and then RACING AS FAST AS YOU CAN to the other side to trigger another one

    Hope you enjoy the boomer. It definitely plays quite unlike any of the other casters!


  4. I certainly wish you the very best as you venture into the world of “Moonkin.”

    As I borrow a few words from your post: “in the hands of a reasonably competant player…” , is obviously why Sol never quite got it right. Gaming the eclipse factor just never clicked for me. Before the eclipse implementation, all was great. I think it’s hard to manage eclipse, but I certainly hope it comes to you much easier. And the fully loaded toolbox does make things very interesting as well.


  5. One small correction: you can’t actually move backwards. The bar only moves in one direction at a time. If you cast the other type of spell, the bar stays still. It’s more or less the same, control-wise though.


    • Rohan is correct for the most part but there is an exception to the rule, there are times your eclipse power will reset (although I am not sure when that is, logging in, some times between combat, etc) and you can move each way along the bar until you get to an eclipse and then it will only go one way. I use X-Perl and it appears on the bar as a diamond shape when it can go either way and an arrow once you get an Eclipse and will only go one way.


      • That is what I had happening when I was testing it, which is why I described it as I did. I was testing on mobs that simply didn’t live long enough to matter, and for the first while I was moving it back and forth well prior to hitting Eclipse.

        Clearly, after I hit Eclipse I didn’t stay up late enough to find out it was a one way street after that.

        No worries, it’s becoming a lot of fun. I’m having a good time using AoE when fully buffed by the right Eclipse state, and things like that. And Typhoon really IS a lot of fun!


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