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Balance Druid Fundamentals and Mechanics - Clan YaWA - You and Whose Army

Balance Druid Fundamentals and Mechanics

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Balance Druid Fundamentals and Mechanics

Post#1 » Tue Jun 24, 2008 8:44 pm

Space Chickens to the Rescue: Balance Druid Fundamentals and Mechanics

This post is an effort to condense and consolidate all the various Balance Druid information that's floating around our forums and others. I will not delve too deeply into the theory or mathematics, as the good folks at have already done far more work than I. Follow the links below if you want to feed your brain, but I take no responsibility for any exploding heads that may result.




Contents
I. Frequently Asked Questions
II. Abilities
III. Talents
IV. Statistics
V. Gear, Enchants, Consumables
VI. Spell Rotations



I. Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What should I call a Balance Druid?
A: We answer to "Moonkin", "Boomkin", "Doomkin", or occasionally "Space Chicken". "Oomkin" is a good way to get yourself Starfired to the face. (Hey, where'd my Shadow Priest go?) "Panzerkin" is a special moniker reserved for Balance Druid tanks, which is an entirely separate subject.

Q: Can Balance Druids do effective DPS?
A: Yes, when geared and played properly, and allowed to make effective use of group synergy.

Q: Where does Balance rank in terms of top DPS classes/specs?
A: This one is very gear-dependent. At the T4 level, Boomkins compete for top honors with Shadow Priests, Warlocks, Hunters, and Mages. At the T5 level, Destruction Warlocks pull ahead by a very wide margin, but Balance is still more or less on par with Shadow Priests. At T6 and beyond, expect to fall to the middle of the pack (T5 4-piece bonus notwithstanding).

Q: What do Balance Druids bring to a raid other than DPS?
A: 5% spell crit to the group they are in; a crowd control ability usable on Beasts and Dragonkin (Hibernate); an emergency short-duration CC (Cyclone); additional armor reduction (Faerie Fire), if not provided by a Feral Druid; a battle rez; an extra Innervate; and depending on spec, a 3% reduction in the melee hit cap for all raid members. Balance Druids can also backup heal (but not main heal), and can serve as ranged tanks on some encounters.

Q: So what's with the "Oomkin" thing?
A: Balance Druids have limited ability to recover mana while casting. They have talents to improve base mana regeneration, but overall they have less options than a Warlock or Mage. Innervate is great but is on a 6 minute cooldown and is often held in reserve for healers. Thus, a smart raid leader will ensure that a Boomkin is placed in a Shadow Priest group if one is available. Otherwise, bring mana pots and lots of them.


II. Abilities

The core Balance abilities are as follows. I will discuss below all spells that can be cast while in Moonkin form, as this is what you'll be in for most of the raid. Casting any spell not on this list will shift you out of Moonkin.

* Indicates spells whose range is improved by Nature's Reach.

Wrath
2 sec cast (1.5 sec with talents) direct Nature damage, 30 yard range*.
Spell damage coefficient: 57% (67% with Wrath of Cenarius)
This can be the Druid's highest DPS nuke when spammed, but is less mana-efficient than Starfire and doesn't synergize as well, since Curse of Elements doesn't boost Nature damage. Nature's Grace also has no real benefit, since it does not lower the GCD. The fast casting time makes your chance of critting in a given period higher, though, so creative weaving of Wrath can give you more NG procs for your Starfire casts.

Starfire
3.5 sec cast (3 sec with talents) direct Arcane damage, 30 yard range*.
Spell damage coefficient: 100% (120% with Wrath of Cenarius)
This is the core Druid nuke. It has slightly lower DPS than Wrath but much greater mana efficiency. It is designed explicitly to benefit from Nature's Grace, as each crit improves the casting speed of your next Starfire by 0.5 sec (a 20% increase).

Moonfire
Instant cast direct Arcane damage with a 12 second DoT, 30 yard range*.
Spell damage coefficient: 21% on the direct component and 50% on the DoT, divided across all ticks.
This spell is a nice DPS booster and has additional uses in certain spell rotations. However, it is by far the least mana-efficient Balance spell and spamming it will drain your mana dry. It is only effective in rotation when you have enough raid mana regeneration to make it sustainable. Due to the high talented crit chance, it makes a good trigger for Nature's Grace.

Insect Swarm
(Talent) Instant cast 12 second Nature DoT, 30 yard range*, reduces target's chance to hit with melee and ranged attacks by 2%.
Spell damage coefficient: 100% divided across all ticks.
This spell is a supremely mana-efficient DoT and has the benefit of indirectly increasing the tank's avoidance, which can help greatly in some fights. Once you reach very high levels of spell damage, however, you may wish to drop Insect Swarm from your rotation, as its net DPS is lower than Moonfire.

Faerie Fire
45 second debuff that reduces the target's armor (Nature school), 30 yard range*. With talents, also increases melee and ranged hit chance by 3% for all raid members against the target.
Improved Faerie Fire is the reason many Boomkins get into raids. Its benefit is clear: it reduces the hit cap for all your dual wielders when talented, adds a not insubstantial increase to melee DPS due to the armor reduction (which stacks with Sunder), and indirectly improves the tank's threat generation by increasing the damage his attacks do. You have to weigh the benefits of using Faerie Fire in your spell rotation against the loss to your own DPS, plus the sacrifice of talents that could go into increasing your DPS or mana longevity.

Hurricane
20 yard radius targeted Nature AoE, channeled over 10 seconds, 30 yard range*. Increases the time between melee and ranged attacks of affected targets by 25%. 1 minute cooldown.
This is a Druid's only AoE spell. Since it's channeled, you don't want to be interrupted while casting it, making Barkskin a perfect companion. Its DPS is quite high, plus it slows all targets it applies to, significantly reducing damage sustained by whoever's tanking them. The only annoying part is the 1 minute cooldown, meaning you can't sustain AoE against targets with lots of health or when waves come less than a minute apart.

Hibernate
1.5 sec cast, 45 sec sleep on Beasts and Dragonkin only (Nature school), 30 yard range. No diminishing returns in PvE.
It's very limited in scope, but this spell provides an additional crowd control ability in certain situations, and Blizzard has designed some encounters with Hibernate in mind. You may have to remind the raid leader that you have it, though! Note that mobs with high Nature resistance will tend to throw off Hibernate very quickly.

Entangling Roots
1.5 sec cast, 45 sec root/Nature DoT, only works outdoors, 30 yard range*. No diminishing returns in PvE. Can only affect one target at a time.
Oh, if only this worked indoors. Since it doesn't, you can forget about using it in 95% of dungeons (ZF, ZG, AQ20, and ZA are the only exceptions). Like Frost Nova, affected targets are unable to move but can still attack and do still pay attention to threat. It has a chance to break on damage, which includes damage taken from its own DoT. As a result, it will rarely last the whole duration.

Cyclone
1.5 sec cast, 6 second banish (Nature school), 20 yard range. Diminishing returns in PvP and PvE. Can only affect one target at a time.
Targets of Cyclone become immune to all damage and effects for 6 seconds. The second application within 15 seconds last 3 sec, the third 1.5 sec, and all subsequent casts have no effect. Cyclone is a situational spell. You can use it to rescue someone (including yourself) from messy death at the hands of a trash mob, but as soon as it breaks the mob will go after them again. If someone was about to apply a longer term CC or stun, Cyclone will make the mob immune to it. Learning when to use this in PvE is an art form.

Remove Curse
Instant cast, dispels one curse effect on a friendly unit (Arcane school), 40 yard range.
This is exactly what it says. Druids and Mages are the only classes that can remove curses. Don't forget about this spell! Unlike Abolish Poison, you can cast it in Moonkin form, while your Tree of Life companions can Abolish Poison but must shift out to cast Remove Curse.

Innervate
Instant cast, increases Intellect/Spirit-based mana regen by 400% and allows full regeneration while casting for 20 seconds, 6 minute cooldown.
Innervate pretty much refills the mana bar of any raid-buffed caster, unless they have really abysmal Spirit regeneration to begin with. When you have Innervate, the five second rule no longer applies and you can freely cast while regenerating mana at the maximum rate. As a Boomkin, you're kind of in a tricky place with respect to Innervate. If you don't have a Shadow Priest, you may have to use it on yourself to avoid going OOM. However, late in a long fight, the healers will be screaming for it too. Discuss with your raid leaders how you should prioritize your Innervate so that there are no misunderstandings later.

Barkskin
Instant cast, reduces all damage taken by 20% and prevents spell pushback for 12 seconds (Nature school). 1 minute cooldown. Usable when stunned, incapacitated, feared, or asleep.
This spell is much improved from the old days, when it used to increase the casting time of all your spells. It's basically designed for two purposes: to allow you to reduce incoming damage when you can anticipate it coming (e.g., you get a nasty DoT that you can't dispel, pull aggro from mobs that won't one-shot you, get Stoned by Gruul when too close to other players, or get Water Tombed without enough health to survive the damage plus fall.); or to prevent spell pushback when you really can't afford it. The latter's principle benefit is to allow you to channel Hurricane or Tranquility without risking pushback. Another good use is when you get an Inner Demon from Leotheras. Do not forget about it.

Thorns
Instant cast damage shield reflecting 25 (up to 44 with Brambles talent) Nature damage on melee hits. This buff gives a minor increase to tank threat generation. 10 minute duration. Since threat is always valuable, it's worth it to cast Thorns on the tank(s), and if you happen to have chosen Brambles, your buff will be more powerful than any other Druid's.

Force of Nature
(Talent) Instant cast targeted summon, 30 yard range (Nature school). 3 minute cooldown.
This spell summons three Treants at the target location, which automatically melee the nearest enemy unit for 30 seconds or until they are killed. This is one of those spells that looks neat but is tricky to use effectively. In essence, it's a 30 second threat-free DoT that can go to a new target if the one it's on dies. On a fully Sundered target with Faerie Fire on it, and given time to do maximum damage, you can expect anywhere from 8-10K total damage for a very modest mana cost. Just about any AoE or cleave type effect will kill them instantly, however, which means timing is essential. Some more tree facts:
* They are considered your pets, but you cannot control them (there's no pet action bar).
* Their health and armor are increased by your Stamina and armor values.
* Their melee damage is increased by your spell damage.
* They are valid targets for mob RSTS abilities, meaning sometimes they'll eat a spell that may have targeted one of your raid members instead.
* They do take environmental damage.
* They do not generate threat for you, but have their own entirely independent aggro tables.
* They initially target the hostile unit closest to where they are cast, within a certain radius. Afterwards, they may go after another target or may just stand around stupidly until they expire.
* They are not supposed to attack CC'ed targets unless no non-CC'ed targets remain. (This doesn't always work; use them in CC environments with great care.)
* Like all combat pets, they will attempt to attack their target from behind whenever possible, so you don't usually need to worry about them getting the tank parry-gibbed.


III. Talents

There are several basic Balance raiding specs, based on some inevitable tradeoffs - i.e., there just aren't enough points for everything you could possibly want. These include:





There's a fourth spec, the Panzerkin, which I won't get into because it's impractical in progression raiding - just know that it is possible for a Balance Druid to tank just about every 5-man dungeon and many raid bosses, with the proper gear and excellent healers.

A quick review of the key Balance talents follows.

Balance Tree
Starlight Wrath - For 5 points, improve Wrath DPS by 33% and Starfire by 17%. One of the best tier 1 talents in the game.
Nature's Grasp/Imp NG - Worthless in raids and 99% of dungeons, but semi-useful for soloing, one point in this talent is necessary to move you into tier 3 if you don't pick up Control of Nature. Do not put any points into Improved Nature's Grasp for a raid spec - this is a PvP oriented talent.
Control of Nature - The choice of this talent versus Brambles depends mainly on your style. You won't be casting Entangling Roots in a raid, and if you have to cast Cyclone through enough incoming damage to make this talent worthwhile, something's badly wrong.
Focused Starlight - 4% extra crit for your core DPS spells and necessary to move you through the tree. Get it.
Improved Moonfire - 10% extra damage and crit for Moonfire. Get it.
Brambles - Up to 75% boost to Thorns is nice for tank threat but otherwise quite unremarkable. The boost to Entangling Roots is great for soloing, turning it into a respectable DoT. This talent fights for points with Control of Nature, as you have to put at least 2 points in one or the other to advance in the tree.
Insect Swarm - For 1 point, you get a respectable DoT that is hugely mana efficient, plus a debuff that reduces the damage your tanks take by 2%. Get it. (See the spell description above for more details.)
Nature's Reach - Increases the range of most of your Balance spells by 20%. For only 2 points, you don't want to pass this up - many encounters have range-sensitive gimmicks and the farther away you can stand, the better.
Vengeance - Critical strike damage increased by 100%. This means your spell crits deal 200% of normal damage rather than 150%. This is an essential DPS talent.
Celestial Focus - This talent sounds good on paper, but is less so in application. It competes for critical points with a variety of other talents and has a situational benefit at best. There is exactly one raid encounter in the game where you will be more useful than anyone else as a tank (Kiggler), and that one is so easy to tank that Celestial Focus hardly matters at all. The chance to proc a stun from Starfire casts is kind of meh too; you can't rely on it and it only works on trash anyway. Skip this for anything other than the Panzerkin build.
Lunar Guidance - 25% of your Intellect adds to spell damage and healing. Absolutely a critical talent, since it stacks with everything else in the tree.
Nature's Grace - Whenever you critically strike with any spell, your next spell casts 0.5 sec faster. This is amazing for boosting Starfire DPS, but that's about it. Due to the mechanics of the global cooldown, it doesn't help Wrath at all, except to reduce the potential for pushback. For 1 point, don't pass it up. (For math junkies, with this talent plus Vengeance, every percent of spell crit you get improves Starfire DPS by approximately 1.2%.)
Moonglow - For 3 points, you get a flat 9% reduction to the mana cost of your most common spells. This talent also has synergy with the Restoration tree if you ever find yourself healing. When you start raiding and find yourself mana starved, it's a great investment. Later on, when your mana regen has improved and raw DPS is more crucial, you may consider dropping it.
Moonfury - It's a straight up boost to all your damage dealing spells, and does stack with spell damage. You did take the Balance tree to do damage, right?
Balance of Power - Don't overlook this talent. 4% increased spell hit is huge - it saves you 50 points of spell hit rating on your gear at level 70. The 4% extra chance to resist is nice and can occasionally save your life.
Dreamstate - 10% of Intellect becomes mp5. It's hard to pass this up in a core raid spec, since mana longevity is crucial, but with the changes to Intensity and Spirit-based regen in 2.4, it's no longer as necessary as it was. Dreamstate is now on the list of "optional" talents rather than absolutely required, once you hit the T5 gear level.
Moonkin Form - 400% additional armor (that's x5 for the math-impaired), 5% spell crit for yourself and party members in 40 yards, and a chance to regenerate mana on melee strikes, but you can only cast Balance spells. The armor and mana regen chance are meh; if you find yourself getting meleed in a raid environment and you didn't mean to, it's bad, but the spell crit is why they bring you to raids.
Improved Faerie Fire - Your Faerie Fire increases the chance that the target will be hit by melee and ranged attacks by 3%. This is one of those really controversial talents. Some guilds require you to spec for this before they'll consider letting you raid. Others don't seem to notice or care. If you take it (at the cost of useful points spent elsewhere), you allow your melee to swap out some hit rating for other stats to improve their overall DPS, or simply improve it by 3% if they aren't hit capped already.
Wrath of Cenarius - Increases the spell damage coefficient of Wrath by 10% and Starfire by 20%. Believe it or not, this translates to the same net DPS increase as Moonfury, and also makes Starfire one of the best scaling nukes in the game with spell damage.
Force of Nature - Despite its position on the top tier of the Balance tree, this is really an optional talent. Think of the trees as a semi-autonomous DoT that lasts 30 seconds and is vulnerable to melee and AoE damage. See the spell description above for more details.

Restoration Tree
There are some vital raid talents in the Restoration tree, so you pretty much have to go here.
Improved Mark of the Wild - You need to get to tier 2, and this is the best place to put the 5 points. Furor is worthless to a Boomkin.
Naturalist - Of the tier 2 talents, this is the only one that makes any sense at all for a Moonkin. You don't (or shouldn't) heal enough for pushback resistance to be an issue (Barkskin handles the problem nicely anyway), and Natural Shapeshifter is only good if you plan to shift a lot. Regardless, this is a matter of preference - if you PvP, you might find Nature's Focus or NS to be better.
Intensity - Get it, max it, love it. 30% of Intellect/Spirit-based regen while casting? That's what all the Spirit is doing on your tier sets.
Subtlety - As one of the DPS specs that has no aggro dump capability whatsoever, you need all the passive threat reduction you can get. If you don't understand the value of this, try doing Void Reaver without it. 5/5 may not be truly necessary - get however many points of this you can spare and still feel safe.


IV. Statistics

Note that these stat evaluations are based on the standard raiding spec given above.

Primary Stats
Intellect - 25% of Intellect adds directly to spell damage, and 10% to mana regeneration. As of 2.4, Intellect also boosts Spirit-based mana regeneration. Get all you can.
Spirit - With full Intensity, 30% of Spirit/Intellect-based mana regeneration applies while casting. In terms of raw itemization, at the T5+ level, Spirit is superior to Mana per 5 seconds.
Spell Damage - Get it, enough said. Thanks to Wrath of Cenarius, you get a 20% bonus to the spell damage coefficient of Starfire, and 10% to Wrath. This stacks with Lunar Guidance.
Note: Some Balance Druid players go for Arcane damage
Spell Hit - With 2/2 Balance of Power, 152 spell hit rating is needed to cap. If you are grouped with a Restoration Shaman, this cap goes down by 1% (12.67 rating). If you are grouped with an Elemental Shaman, this cap can go down by as much as 4% (50.67 rating), so you may want to keep an alternate crit or haste set if it's good enough.
Spell Haste - Elitist Jerks has lots of theorycraft on this, but basically once you pass 1100 spell damage and are hit capped, haste is better to stack than anything else.
Spell Crit - Spell crit gets you Nature's Grace procs, improving your casting speed and thus DPS output. With Vengeance, you crit for 200% of base damage. Each crit percent is worth approximately 1% increase in DPS, or 1.2% in Starfire DPS, diminishing slightly the more you have. Still, spell crit has been proven to be weaker than haste at high levels, simply due to the fact that it has a worse conversion ratio.

Secondary Stats
Stamina - Gear for Stamina to the level required by the content you're attempting (e.g., don't go into BT with less than 9K buffed). In most cases, raid drops will provide more than enough, although crafted gear may not.
Mana per 5 seconds - Since the 2.4 changes to the Intellect/Spirit regeneration formula, mp5 is far less valuable as a statistic. Don't pass it up, but the same proportion of Spirit (Blizzard's itemization formula says 2.5 Spirit costs the same as 1 mp5) gets you almost as good a benefit, and one that increases with raid buffs. However, if you (for some insane reason) passed up Intensity, then mp5 becomes your only source of regeneration besides Dreamstate.
Armor - Sure, leather is nice to have when you can get it, but armor is only useful to a raiding Balance Druid in that it may let you survive one more hit than, say, a Mage. Since you don't want to get hit at all (Panzerkins notwithstanding), it's a throwaway stat. If cloth gives you more DPS, get it.

Worthless Stats
Spell Penetration - If you don't already know that this is not a PvE stat, don't bother coming to the raid.
Strength/Agility - That mana regen on melee hit ability you have? Forget about it, unless of course you're Panzerkinning.


V. Gear, Enchants, Consumables

The section on statistics above should cover most basic questions regarding what stats you need from your gear. This section will more closely inspect individual items, sets, and bonuses.

Tier set bonuses
Tier 4: The 2-piece bonus (chance to regen mana on casts) is nice for when you're mana starved in T4/early T5 progression, but its chance to proc is so low that it's barely noticeable on a long-term basis. The 4-piece bonus (reduced Innervate cooldown) is again oriented towards the poor Oomkin, but just like the 2-piece bonus, it's forgettable.
Tier 5: The 2-piece bonus (reduced Regrowth mana cost after leaving Moonkin Form) looks like a joke. It is, kind of, but there are some situations in which you may need to get off a fast heal and this bonus makes it almost worth the cost. In fact, with Natural Shapeshifter, it's cheaper to shift to Moonkin Form before casting Regrowth than it is to do it from caster form. The 4-piece bonus (10% increased Starfire damage when your Moonfire or Insect Swarm is on the target), on the other hand, is so insanely good that it's worth keeping all the way through T6 content. In fact, it's the only thing that keeps you even remotely competitive with the other casters at this level.
Tier 6: The 2-piece bonus (your Moonfire DoT lasts longer) is only moderately good by itself, but is really great if you can get the bracers, boots, or belt from Sunwell so that it synergizes with the 4-piece Tier 5 bonus. The 4-piece T6 bonus (5% increased Starfire critical strike chance) is vanilla, but still very nice.

Idols
The idol rotation concept is going away in the 2.4.3 patch, so it deserves only a passing mention here. Now, you pretty much have to choose the best idol at the start of a fight and stick with it, or else stop your rotation for an entire GCD.

Idol of the Raven Goddess - This idol, even buffed, does more to benefit your group as a whole than it does you personally. In a group of crit-dependent casters, it's awesome. When you're soloing or running in a small group, the other idols will do more for you.
Ivory Idol of the Moongoddess - Many raiding Balance Druids continue to make this their preferred idol. Starfire is the primary nuke, this idol boosts Starfire - it's a winner all around.
Idol of the Avenger - Wrath spam being one of the least mana-efficient casting cycles, this idol has very limited utility. You could possibly keep it around for Arcane immune mobs.
Idol of the Unseen Moon - This idol is awesome on paper and has a pretty good proc rate. The trouble is that including Moonfire in your cast rotation is very mana-intensive. Still, with enough mana and an efficient rotation, you should be able to keep the proc up enough that it stays on par with the Starfire idol, and the nice part is that the proc benefits all your spells, not just Starfire.

Enchants
Head - Get the Glyph of Power from Sha'tar rep. No questions asked.
Shoulders - The Aldor enchant is slightly better than the Scryer one. Still, this is pretty easy.
Cloak - Subtlety, if anything. Cloak enchants are pretty meh for casters.
Chest - +6 stats nicely complements Lunar Guidance, Dreamstate, and Intensity, while +15 Spirit works mainly with Intensity. 6 mp5 is okay, but if you can afford better, get it.
Bracer - Spell damage, no questions asked.
Gloves - Again, spell damage.
Legs - Mystic or Runic Spellthread.
Feet - Vitality for mana regen or Boar's Speed if you are dealing with movement-sensitive fights.
Weapon - +40 spell damage is good. Sunfire is even better but you give up any bonus damage for Wrath and Insect Swarm. Nothing else is worth mentioning.
Rings - +12 spell damage, if you're an Enchanter.

Gems
Red socket - +hit/+spell damage up to hit cap, +damage after.
Yellow socket - +hit/+spell damage up to hit cap, then go for haste/damage, crit/damage, or pure haste depending on your needs.
Blue socket - +spell damage/+stamina is about all that works here, at least to get the socket bonus and/or meta requirement. If you don't care, go with one of the other types above.
Meta socket - Chaotic Skyfire Diamond is generally considered to be the best here.

Consumables
Food - Blackened Basilisk or the fish version.
Elixirs - Adept's and Draenic Wisdom, if you are concerned about longevity or just don't feel like burning a flask.
Flask - Blinding Light is still slightly superior to Adept's/Draenic in terms of net DPS. Supreme Power is an adequate substitute if you're really cheap.
Weapon - Superior Wizard Oil, obviously. Brilliant if you can get it, but that stuff's damn expensive.


VI. Spell Rotation

There are several spell rotations that a Balance Druid may use, and they all have benefits and drawbacks. The damage calculator spreadsheet spends a great deal of computational power on figuring out the best one for you, so I won't even try to cover all the theorycraft here. I'll just discuss the most common.

Note: SF = Starfire, IS = Insect Swarm, MF = Moonfire, W = Wrath.

IS, SFx4 - The most mana-conservative rotation, this lets you keep up Insect Swarm for tank mitigation (and a cheap DoT), plus chain-cast Starfire. This is where you'll be throughout most of T4, unless you get a well-geared Shadow Priest so you can afford Moonfire now and then.
MF, Wx8 - The most mana-intensive rotation, you can get away with this when you have absolutely no concerns about mana, need the maximum possible burst DPS, and/or don't have Curse of Shadows to boost your Starfire damage.
IS, MF, SFx3 - This rotation works best with the Idol of the Unseen Moon to maximize uptime of its proc. It burns slightly more mana than the basic rotation, but increases your overall DPS.

There's also a rotation where you try to cast Wrath when NG is not up and Starfire when it is, to take advantage of Wrath's faster casting and thereby greater likelihood to crit over a given period of time. It's tricky and I explained it in my .
Last edited by Lealla on Wed Nov 12, 2008 2:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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3.0.x Balance Druid Changes (Preview)

Post#2 » Fri Aug 29, 2008 3:21 pm

3.0.x Balance Druid Changes (Preview)

Balance Druids are seeing a major revamp with the 3.0 patch and Wrath of the Lich King. You will still stay in Moonkin Form and you will still spam your nukes, but the talent trees and a great deal of the mechanics are changing. The three biggest changes have to do with cast cycles, raid utility, AoE, and CC... wait, let me start over. The four biggest changes...

*ahem*

In each category I will first show the relevant patch notes, then discuss the ramifications of the changes.

Cast Cycles
* Nature's Grace (Balance): Now also reduces the global cooldown of your Wrath spell by 50% while in effect.
* Earth & Moon: (new talent) Your Starfire and Wrath hits have a 20/40/60/80/100% chance to increase the target's vulnerability to all schools of magic by 13%.
* Eclipse (new talent): Wrath crits have a chance to increase Starfire damage by 10%, and Starfire crits have a chance to increase Wrath critical strike chance by 10%. 2 min cooldown per effect.
* Improved Insect Swarm (new talent): Increases your damage done by your Wrath spell to targets afflicted by your Insect Swarm by 1/2/3%, and increases the critical strike chance of your Starfire spell by 1/2/3% on targets afflicted by your Moonfire spell.
* Nature's Splendor (new talent): Increases the duration of your Moonfire, Insect Swarm, Rejuvenation, Regrowth, Lifebloom and Flourish spells by 10/20/30%.

The Nature's Grace change is huge. Before, NG procs were wasted on Wrath because, although you could reduce the cast time below 1.5 sec, you couldn't actually cast Wraths any faster due to the GCD. Now, with sufficient crit, you can become a machine gun of green death.

Math: Crit % * (0.5 sec)/(1.5 sec) = Wrath DPS increase

In other words, each percent of crit is effectively worth a 1.33% damage increase in Wrath (compared with 1.2% increase in Starfire). Also remember that Earth & Moon increases Nature damage (as do Ebon Plague and Curse of Elements), so now the only reason why Wrath can't be your primary DPS spell is the mana cost.

As for Eclipse, if you choose to get it (it's kind of in an optional spot), it's designed to lead you to switch up Starfire and Wrath in your rotation. Basically, you spam one until you get an Eclipse proc, then switch to the other. If used properly it can markedly increase your DPS.

Finally, the increase to DoT duration (again, an optional talent but nice) and the buff from Improved Insect Swarm (a beautiful talent) will make it even more effective to maintain your DoTs on the target.


Raid Utility
* Brambles (Balance): Now increases the damage done by your Treants, and also damage caused from your Treants and Barkskin has a 5/10/15% chance to Daze the target for 3 sec.
* Celestial Focus (Balance): The stun proc now works with Starfall, and the talent increases your total spell haste by 1/2/3%. Pushback resistance removed.
* Improved Moonkin Aura (Balance): (new talent) Adds 3% haste to your Moonkin Aura.
* New Spell: Revive - Returns the spirit to the body, restoring a dead target to life with health and mana. Cannot be cast when in combat. (Ranks 1-7 added)
* Insect Swarm (Balance): Moved to Tier 5, now reduces target's hit chance by 5% (from 2%).
* Improved Faerie Fire (Balance): Changed, now provides spell hit rather than melee hit.
* The damage of Thorns has been dramatically increased towards the higher ranks.
* Moonkin Aura is now raid-wide and has a 45-yard radius.

So, let's see... Celestial Focus is still a solo/PvP oriented talent, but the idea of a chance to deliver an AoE stun while casting Starfall isn't bad, and the addition of spell haste gives it some generic PvE value. Brambles adds a Daze effect and buffs Treants, which is great, plus it stacks nicely with the buffed Thorns (think close to 150 damage at level 70 instead of 44). [I can't hear you, Control of Nature freaks - were you still saying something?]

IMkA got nerfed hardcore (although it's still a buff from not having it at all), and in the new stacking rules it won't stack with the haste buff that Retribution Paladins deliver through their Retribution Aura. In other stacking news, IFF won't stack with Misery (although the change to spell hit makes it actually worthwhile to pick up again), and Moonkin Aura itself won't stack with Elemental Oath (new Elemental Shaman ability).

Lastly, all Druids can now rez out of combat, just like they should have been able to from the start (whee).

Changes to Entangling Roots are discussed under CC, below.


AoE
* Hurricane: No longer has a cooldown (was 1 minute). Debuff is now a 20% melee, ranged, and spell casting slow.
* Typhoon (new talent): This spell is being reworked, but currently spawns a "tornado" effect for a short duration that causes Nature damage and a knockback.
* Starfall (new talent): Causes up to 20 stars to fall on random targets in the area of effect - each star does direct Arcane damage and splash damage.

This is some drool-worthy rags to riches scenario. Not only is our main AoE massively buffed but we get two new talented AoEs. With no cooldown, you can sit there and spam Hurricane for all you're worth. The new pushback rules make it no longer essential to keep Barkskin up, either, as you can lose at most half the casting time to pushback.

Typhoon looks like a PvP oriented ability at first glance, but it seems to have the interesting property that it's not channeled, so it's kind of a fire-and-forget AoE that will sit there knocking mobs or players around. Whatever - Blizz already said they are rethinking its design.

Starfall, depending on the base damage and whether it's channeled or not (something not explicitly stated in the description) could be insanely powerful when used on clumped up groups of mobs (DIE TK trash!)


Crowd Control
* Entangling Roots: Can now be used indoors.
* Nature's Grasp: Is now a trainable spell, with a 100% base proc rate, can be cast indoors, and can proc indoors. It is no longer a Balance talent.

There's not much else to say here. Hibernate has always been a situational spell, but now we can stop any melee mob in its tracks and keep it there indefinitely. Roots still has all its old limitations (breaks on damage, doesn't prevent the mob from attacking), but it seems that the amount of damage required to break free from it is getting normalized so you won't have so many "it breaks 3 seconds later" situations. For usability, imagine a Freezing Trap or single-target Frost Nova with no cooldown and a 36 yard range.

(Important note for tanks: Root effects do not prevent the mob from accumulating hate, so when it breaks free it's making a beeline for either the Druid or a healer. Be aware.)


Longevity
* Moonkin Form (Balance) no longer increases your attack power or causes you to regenerate mana off melee attacks, but now has a chance to cause you to instantly regenerate 2% of your total mana every time you critically hit with a spell.
* Omen of Clarity (Restoration): Now a passive spell. Now also works for spells (healing and damage). Proc rate is roughly 6% with a 10 second internal cooldown.
* Furor (Restoration) changed to: Gives you 20/40/60/80/100% chance to gain 10 Rage when you shapeshift into Bear and Dire Bear Form or 40 Energy when you shapeshift into Cat Form, and increases your total Intellect while in Moonkin form by 2/4/6/8/10%.

What's not to like? Moonkin Form finally loses that silly "meleekin" mana regen property and gains a chance to regen mana on a spell crit, making crit even more valuable for us than it is already. OoC, once a wasted talent for non-Ferals, now effectively gives a 6% mana return for a single talent point. Ironically, you can still get procs by meleeing with it, making it almost a replacement for the old effect of Moonkin Aura.

The only sucky thing about mana regen for Moonkin Druids is that it's hard to get Intensity while still maxing the Balance tree (and completely impossible at level 70). You have to give up some amount of raw damage, utility, and/or AoE capability to get it. Hopefully the new Moonkin Form and OoC changes will make up for this.

The new Furor is kind of interesting; a 10% Intellect boost has great synergy for Balance Druids, but it's not like we needed another 5 mandatory talent points in the Restoration tree. If we're supposed to get the majority of our mana regen from Dreamstate, why does all our T7+ gear have Spirit on it? It boggles the mind.


Conclusions
With more raid utility, improved AoE, better mana saving model, real indoor CC, and a more varied casting cycle, the Balance Druid is being buffed across the board. I can't wait to sample the new goodness.
Last edited by Lealla on Wed Sep 10, 2008 3:35 pm, edited 4 times in total.



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Post#3 » Sat Aug 30, 2008 10:38 am



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Post#4 » Sat Aug 30, 2008 12:41 pm




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Post#5 » Sat Aug 30, 2008 3:20 pm

3.x is absolutely pointless to spend any thought on until it happens. I still find it depressing that i've worked so hard to outfit my druid with the top lvl 70 gearing, to find it obsolete.



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Post#6 » Sat Aug 30, 2008 5:11 pm

Say what? You're joking, right? Since when is this patch making your gear obsolete - other than in the sense that WotLK content will make BC content obsolete (just like BC did to vanilla WoW and level 60 did to level 40)?



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Post#7 » Mon Sep 08, 2008 4:13 pm




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Post#8 » Tue Oct 14, 2008 11:48 am

I'll do a full post-3.0 revision to the main thread soon. For now, I'm posting the final Balance build I used on the PTRs: http://wotlk.wowhead.com/?talent=0xGbuicsAdhVukt

This gives you all the AoE goodness and all the core DPS boosting talents save Celestial Focus. It completely lacks any Restoration talents, including the new sexy Furor, but I couldn't find a good way to fit those in. You could skip Typhoon and Force of Nature if you really insist, but definitely get Starfall; it owns.

Glyphs
At level 70, 2 Major and 3 Minor Glyphs will be usable. These are the ones I plan to get once they become available.

Major Glyphs
(Req. lvl. 20) - Your Starfire ability increases the duration of your Moonfire effect on the target by 3 sec.
(Req. lvl. 15) - Increases the chance you'll resist spell interruption when casting your Wrath spell by 50%.

Note: These are the few Major Glyphs that actually buff spells instead of changing their mechanics. I might also consider the Innervate, Starfall, and Hurricane glyphs.

Minor Glyphs
(Req. lvl. 16) - Increases your swim speed by 50% while in Aquatic Form.
(Req. lvl. 15) - Mana cost of your Mark of the Wild and Gift of the Wild spells reduced by 50%.
(Req. lvl. 20) - Your Rebirth spell no longer requires a reagent.



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Post#9 » Sat Oct 18, 2008 8:08 am

From the talent changes in the upcoming 3.0.3 patch (build 9095), here are my proposed Balance specs. The extra four points really helps provide additional options.

Level 70:
Level 80: (Max DPS)
Level 80: (Max longevity)
Level 80: (PvP build?)



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