This post will serve as a guide to being a Balance Druid in Wrath of the Lich King. I will not delve too deeply into the theory or mathematics, as the good folks at Elitist Jerks 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. As with all such posts, it's always a work in progress, so feel free to add any comments, suggestions, or point out any errors you may notice.
Elitist Jerks - Moonkin Raiding
Elitist Jerks - Moonkin Talent Specs Discussion
Elitist Jerks - Moonkin DPS Spreadsheet
I. Frequently Asked Questions
V. Gear, Enchants, Consumables
VI. Spell Rotations
VII. Additional Notes
I. Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What does a Balance Druid do?
A: Balance is the ranged spell damage talent tree of the Druid class, dealing Arcane and Nature damage. It also has a full suite of raid synergy, survivability, AoE, and longevity talents, with variant talent builds suitable for emphasizing any of those aspects. You bring a Balance Druid to nuke stuff, perform certain types of crowd control, battle rez, and offheal in a pinch. Balance Druids may also act as ranged tanks for specialized encounters.
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. "Panzerkin" is a special moniker reserved for Balance Druids specced as physical tanks, which is an entirely separate subject. Despite rumors to the contrary, our feathers are not usually smelly except after we've been standing in the rain.
Q: Can Balance Druids do effective DPS?
A: Yes, Balance Druids are absolutely competitive with other DPS classes. It's close enough that skill and gear are far more important than class mechanics alone. Furthermore, Balance scales very well with gear, and is quite powerful in AoE situations depending on talent choices.
Q: Where does Balance rank in terms of top DPS classes/specs?
A: It varies by patch, skill, and gear. Balance got a slight (3%) bump in 3.3.2, but remains highly competitive with all other ranged DPS classes and specs. For an interesting look, visit SimCraft's DPS modeling engine, but remember that these are theoretical values; real-world performance will always trump simulation. Also note that the most recent simulation as of this writing is using the best available Tier 9 gear, not T10.
Q: What do Balance Druids bring to a raid other than DPS?
A: A lot. See below for a full list of group synergy abilities, along with the class abilities that overlap, if applicable. All buff/debuff effects benefit the entire raid.
- 5% spell crit (Moonkin Aura) (Elemental Oath)
- 3% all haste (Improved Moonkin Aura) (Swift Retribution)
- Minor armor reduction (Faerie Fire) (Sting [Hunter Pet], Curse of Recklessness)
- 3% Spell hit increase debuff (Improved Faerie Fire) (Misery)
- 13% spell damage taken debuff (Earth and Moon) (Ebon Plaguebringer, Curse of the Elements)
- A traditional CC ability usable on Beasts and Dragonkin (Hibernate)
- A root ability usable on any target (Entangling Roots)
- An emergency short-duration Banish (Cyclone)
- Combat resurrection on a 10 minute CD (Rebirth)
- Out of combat resurrection (Revive)
- Mana regeneration boost to a single target (Innervate)
- Backup healing
- Ranged tanking capabilities due to burst and sustained threat generation.
- Polymorph immunity allows tanking for certain gimmick fights.
- Kite tanking due to the ability to root mobs with Entangling Roots
Q: So what's with the "Oomkin" thing?
A: This is a holdover from the Balance situation in 2.x. A Balance Druid in T8 or higher gear with standard raid buffs should never go out of mana on standard fights, without using Innervate or potions.
Q: Are there any addons that specifically help Balance Druids?
A: Aside from the general addons that any raider should be using, there is one particular addon called Squawk and Awe that sets up a really handy Eclipse proc watcher. It tells you how much time you have left in your current Eclipse, which Eclipse cycle you are on, and the cooldown. It's essential for maintaining a really tight rotation.
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.
** Indicates spells whose duration is improved by Nature's Splendor.
2 sec cast (1.5 sec with talents) direct Nature damage, 30 yard range*.
Spell damage coefficient: 57% (67% with Wrath of Cenarius)
This is a fast, high DPS nuke and a core part of the Balance rotation. It applies the Earth and Moon debuff, and can trigger Starfire Eclipse on crits. It is the only Druid spell with a travel time, which impacts your Eclipse rotation.
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 a slow, high DPS nuke and a core part of the Balance rotation. Its base DPS is slightly lower than Wrath but it benefits more from Nature's Grace. It applies the Earth and Moon debuff and triggers Wrath Eclipse on crits. With the Glyph of Starfire equipped, Starfire hits extend the duration of Moonfire on their target.
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 is a powerful DoT, but with low mana efficiency. With the Improved Insect Swarm talent, your Starfire spell will have an increased critical strike chance when Moonfire is on the target. You can also apply the Glyph of Moonfire to increase the DoT effect at the cost of lower up-front damage.
- Insect Swarm (Talent)
Instant cast 12 second Nature DoT**, 30 yard range*, reduces target's chance to hit with melee and ranged attacks by 3%.
Spell damage coefficient: 80% divided across all ticks.
This is a moderately strong DoT that is very mana efficient and reduces the target's chance to hit, which can improve tank avoidance. With Improved Insect Swarm, your Wrath spell will do more damage when Insect Swarm is on the target. You can apply the Glyph of Insect Swarm to increase the damage of Insect Swarm while removing the hit debuff, which is usually not needed.
- Faerie Fire
Instant cast Nature debuff that reduces the target's armor, 5 minute (40 seconds in PvP) duration, 30 yard range*.
This is a support spell that lowers the target's armor and prevents it from entering stealth. With the Improved Faerie Fire talent, it also improves spell hit chance by 3% for all raid members against the target and improves your personal critical strike chance by 3%. (The latter effect operates no matter which Druid cast the spell.)
Instant cast Nature AoE, targeted, 20 yard radius, 10 second channel, 30 yard range*. Applies a 20% melee, ranged, and casting slow debuff to affected targets.
This is the Druid's primary AoE spell, doing large amounts of damage at a very high mana cost. Each tick is capable of critting. Barkskin is helpful to avoid pushback while casting. You can apply the Glyph of Hurricane to add a 20% movement speed debuff to the base effect.
- Typhoon (Talent)
Instant cast Nature AoE, emanating from the caster and moving forward, knocks back affected targets 5 yards and applies a 6 second Daze, 30 yard range*, 20 sec cooldown.
This talented spell is designed for maximum effect in PvP, but has some strong benefits in PvE. The knockback effect interrupts spellcasting, so it can be a great way to keep casters under control (something Balance is otherwise weak at), plus its obvious benefits for keeping mobs from meleeing you. The width of the effect is deceptive; it's easy to accidentally pull mobs you weren't intending to. You can apply the Glyph of Typhoon to eliminate the knockback effect while reducing the mana cost. The Daze effect also makes this spell excellent for crowd control.
- Starfall (Talent)
Instant cast Arcane AoE, up to 20 stars fall around the caster dealing direct damage plus splash damage to all targets within 5 yards, 10 sec duration, 30 yard radius*, 1.5 min cooldown.
This talented spell is one of the most unique AoE abilities in the game. Its most interesting attribute is that it is instant, not channeled, but the effect moves with and is centered on you. It is not interruptible, but is dispellable, and the effect will be suppressed while you are stunned or incapacitated. You can cast it and wade into a group of mobs or players and watch as the pretty shiny stars nuke the crap out of them. Each star and each splash can crit as well. The radius of the effect is extremely large, so be careful using it in crowded areas, as you can easily pull mobs you weren't intending to. You can apply the Glyph of Starfall to increase the duration by 2 sec (4 more stars, or 20% additional damage).
1.5 sec cast, 45 sec (10 sec in PvP) sleep on Beasts and Dragonkin only (Nature school), 30 yard range. No diminishing returns in PvE.
It's 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 (10 sec in PvP) root/Nature DoT, 30 yard range*. No diminishing returns in PvE. Can only affect one target at a time.
This is a powerful CC ability, rooting the target in place and causing periodic damage. 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. You do not want to use it on caster mobs, as they will still be able to cast, nor do you want to use it in combination with any other form of CC, as the DoT tick will break Polymorph, Hibernate, Freezing Trap, etc.
- Nature's Grasp
Instant cast, 100% chance that the next melee hit you take will cause Entangling Roots to be cast on your attacker, 45 sec duration, 1 min cooldown.
This ability is very effective when you expect something to hit you and need to get out of range. See Entangling Roots for a description of the root effect.
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 are stunned and 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 until 15 seconds have passed. 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. It's extremely effective on Mind Controlled players in certain encounters.
- Remove Curse
Instant cast, dispels one curse effect on a friendly unit (Arcane school), 40 yard range.
Druids, Mages, and Restoration Shamans are the only classes/specs that can remove curses, and you will frequently be called upon to do this in groups and raids.
- Abolish Poison
Instant cast, dispels one poison effect on a friendly unit and another effect every 5 seconds (Nature school), 15 sec duration, 40 yard range.
Druids, Paladins, and Shamans (Cleansing Totem) are the only classes/specs that can remove poison, and you may be called upon to do this in groups and raids.
Instant cast, restores 200% of the target's base mana over 10 sec (Arcane school), 3 minute cooldown.
Innervate is a mana restoration spell that can be cast on any target in your raid. Knowing when to save it for yourself and when to use it on other casters can be an art form. Note that it will restore approximately the same amount of mana no matter who it's cast on, and this regeneration is not affected by the target's gear; it's solely based on their base mana pool.
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 designed for two purposes: to allow you to reduce incoming damage when you can anticipate it coming, or to prevent spell pushback when you really can't afford it. The latter application is useful for getting the full duration from Hurricane or Tranquility.
Instant cast, damage shield buff reflecting Nature damage on melee hits, 10 minute duration.
This buff gives a slight increase to tank threat generation. It's also useful while soloing and in PvP. The damage scales with spell power and is significantly increased by the Brambles talent.
- Force of Nature (Talent)
Instant cast targeted summon, 30 yard range* (Nature school). 2 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. As of 3.3, they have 90% resistance to AoE damage in PvE, meaning that they usually survive to their full duration. They contribute anywhere from 45K to 60K damage per cast depending on conditions. Also note the following:
* They are considered your pets, and you get a pet control bar for them.
* Their health, armor, and melee damage scale with your Stamina, armor, and spell power.
* They benefit from totems, auras, Heroism, Battle Shout, and similar AoE buffs, but they must be ongoing or be applied while the Treants are active to have an effect.
* They are valid targets for many mob RSTS abilities, meaning sometimes they'll eat a spell that may have targeted one of your raid members instead.
* They take environmental damage and AoE damage, but have 90% resistance just like all other pets.
* They do not generate threat for you, but have their own entirely independent aggro tables.
* They prefer to target your current target or the one that you've generated the most threat on. It is sometimes necessary to control them manually using the pet bar (Ctrl-1 is a simple shortcut that commands them to go after your current target).
* 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.
* The Brambles talent increases their damage by up to 15% and gives them a chance to Daze their target.
There is a standard raid Boomkin build. I prefer a slightly modified version that goes for Intensity for the extra Spirit-based regeneration.
Standard Generic Raid Build: 58/0/13
Lealla's Custom Raid Build: 55/0/16
There's another 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/Feral hybrid Druid to tank just about every 5-man dungeon and some raid bosses, with the proper gear and excellent healers.
A quick review of the key Balance talents follows.
Starlight Wrath - For 5 points, improve Wrath DPS by 33% and Starfire by 17%. One of the best tier 1 talents in the game.
Genesis - For 5 points, increases damage and healing done by your HoTs and DoTs by 5%. This talent is designed for Restoration to gain access to the next tier, but a single point in here is a valid investment if you skip Moonglow.
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. This talent scales very poorly with gear and is skippable.
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. This could be considered optional in the sense that Moonfire is not a primary ability, but it's a DPS booster and that's what you need. It's especially good with the T9 2-piece set bonus.
Brambles - Increases damage of Thorns and Entangling Roots by up to 75%, Force of Nature by up to 15% and causes those spells to have a chance to apply the Dazed effect. It's mainly a PvP talent and doesn't fit with most raid builds.
Nature's Grace - Whenever you critically strike with any spell, your gain 20% spell haste for 6 sec or until your next non-instant spellcast. This also affects the global cooldown. An essential, core talent.
Nature's Splendor - Increases the duration of Insect Swarm, Moonfire, Rejuvenation, and Regrowth by 3 sec, and Lifebloom by 2 sec. Aside from its value to Restoration builds, this talent helps extend your rotation and as such is a great DPS increase.
Nature's Reach - Increases the range of most of your Balance spells by 20% and reduces threat generated by Balance spells by 30%. Don't underestimate the value of the threat reduction; unlike Warlocks, Mages, and Shadow Priests, Druids have no ability to drop threat.
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 - Increases your total spell haste by 3% and reduces pushback on Starfire and Hurricane by 70%. Technically an optional talent but very useful.
Lunar Guidance - 12% of your Intellect adds to spell power. This is another unexciting, but core talent that has excellent synergy with Furor.
Moonfury - For 3 points, a 10% increase in the damage of all your spells. A core talent.
Insect Swarm - See the description of this spell, above. A core part of the Moonkin rotation.
Improved Insect Swarm - For 3 points, your Wrath does 3% more damage when Insect Swarm is on the target, and your Starfire has a 3% increased critical strike chance when your Moonfire is on the target. Like Celestial Focus, this talent is technically optional but has a viable benefit to your rotation.
Balance of Power - 4% increased spell hit chance and 6% reduced spell damage taken. This talent effectively saves you 105 points of hit rating at level 80 and reduces the healing burden on you in raids. Some Druids skip this if they are massively over hit cap (at least 341 hit rating).
Dreamstate - 10% of Intellect becomes mp5. This talent is highly skippable. Even with T10 amounts of Intellect, you won't see as much benefit from this talent as from Intensity.
Moonkin Form - 370% additional armor (that's x4.7 for the math-impaired), 5% spell crit aura, and a chance to regenerate mana on spell crits, but you can't cast heals. This is your first core raid synergy talent, with the additional bonus of dramatically increasing your own survivability and longevity. It alone delivers more mana return at T9/10 levels than all other talents combined.
Improved Moonkin Form - Your Moonkin Aura also grants up to 3% haste and 15% of your Spirit is added to your spell power. Definitely take this if only for the benefit to yourself; the raid synergy boost from the extra haste is just a nice bonus to throw into the mix.
Improved Faerie Fire - Your Faerie Fire increases the chance that the target will be hit by spells by 3% and increases your own critical strike chance by 3% against targets with Faerie Fire. Spec this if only for the benefit to yourself of the extra 3% crit; it's as good in this respect as Celestial Focus and Improved Insect Swarm.
Owlkin Frenzy - When you take damage, you have a 15% chance to become enraged, reducing pushback and increasing spell damage by 10% for 10 seconds. The benefit of this talent to a raid build is highly theoretical; it can provide a measurable buff to your DPS if you're taking a lot of raid damage, which happens a lot in ICC. If you aren't getting hit, it's worthless.
Wrath of Cenarius - Increases the spell power coefficient of Wrath by 10% and Starfire by 20%. A core talent that makes your spells scale better with spell power, and a must have.
Eclipse - Your Wrath crits have a 60% chance to increase Starfire critical strike chance by 40% and your Starfire crits have a 100% chance to increase Wrath damage by 40% for 15 sec, with a 30 sec cooldown on each effect. This talent is at the core of the Balance DPS rotation; see below.
Typhoon - See the spell description above for more details. This is a very nice PvP talent, and good for multi-mob grinding in PvE, with the additional benefit of serving as a spell interrupt. Still, many pure raid builds skip it.
Force of Nature - See the spell description above for more details on this talent. For one talent point and a single GCD, it's a very noticeable damage increase.
Gale Winds - Increases damage done by Hurricane, Typhoon, and Starfall by 30%. A solid synergizer for an AoE build, this talent is usually not worth the points in a dedicated raid build.
Earth and Moon - Wrath and Starfire apply a debuff increasing spell damage taken (except Holy) by the target by up to 13%. Also increases your spell power by 6%. This is the final and arguably most powerful raid synergy talent for Balance Druids, especially since it requires no special action to apply (unlike Curse of the Elements). The self-buff makes it a core DPS talent all by itself.
Starfall - See the spell description above for more details on this talent. It's a powerful AoE ability, well worth spending the point to pick up.
Feral has no synergy with Balance at all, except for the rare Druid who wishes to specialize in physical tanking while in Moonkin form, and that's beyond the scope of this discussion.
There are some very desirable talents in the Restoration tree, but you have to weigh their value against the sacrifice of talents in the Balance tree. Only the talents a Balance Druid should consider will be listed.
Improved Mark of the Wild - 40% improvement to Mark/Gift, and a 2% increase to all attributes. Get it.
Nature's Focus - 70% spell pushback reduction for some healing spells and Wrath. Not useful enough for a Balance build to consider.
Furor - Ignore the other effects; the one you care about is the 10% boost to Intellect. Given how valuable it is for spell power, mana regen, and spell crit, not to mention mana itself, you can't afford to pass this one up.
Natural Shapeshifter - The 30% reduction to shapeshifting cost is kind of lame unless you're shifting a lot, but you need it to get to Master Shapeshifter.
Intensity - Up to 50% of Spirit-based regen continues while casting. As a mana regen talent, this is actually quite valuable considering the high amount of Spirit on raid gear, more so than even Dreamstate. If you are having mana issues, this is the first place to look.
Omen of Clarity - Gives a chance on melee autoattack and spellcast to cause your next damage or healing spell cast within 12 seconds to have no mana cost. This is considered a standard talent for Balance. The actual proc rate is supposed to average 6 per minute. Interestingly, it has a chance to proc for each tick of a channeled spell like Hurricane.
Master Shapeshifter - The only effect you care about is the 4% increased damage in Moonkin Form.
Please note that these stat evaluations are based on a standard raiding spec that includes Lunar Guidance, Improved Moonkin Form, and Furor.
Spell Power - Get as much of this as you can.
Hit Rating - With 2/2 Balance of Power, 341 hit rating is needed to cap. If you get Improved Faerie Fire or Misery on your targets, the cap goes down 3% to 263, If you are grouped with a Draenei, this cap goes down by an additional 1%, to a potential absolute minimum of 237. Basically, you should aim to get 9-10% hit from your gear and the rest from talents and raid synergy. If your gear is over cap, you may respec to drop points from Balance of Power.
Crit Rating - This is your most valuable stat after spell power and after reaching hit cap. In addition to doing double damage (Vengeance), your critical hits also: increase your casting speed (Nature's Grace), regenerate your mana (Moonkin Form), and grant additional damage and crit bonuses (Eclipse).
Haste Rating - Haste rating is slightly less valuable point for point than crit rating in 3.3. You still want it to improve your casting speed, but endgame Balance Druids tend to favor a 2:1 crit to haste ratio.
Spirit - Spirit gives you additional spell power (15% with Improved Moonkin Form) and mana regen if you take Intensity. Much of your raid gear has it, but you should not gear for it specifically.
Intellect - All your gear comes with Intellect, so you can essentially ignore it. The more Intellect you have, the more mana you get, the more you'll benefit from effects that regenerate a percentage of your mana, and the more spell power you get from Lunar Guidance. It is not necessary to enchant or gem for Intellect.
Stamina - It is not necessary to gear or enchant specifically for Stamina; your gear will provide what you need as you progress.
Mana per 5 seconds - Mp5 should be ignored on gear; it's very much a healer stat, and healers will be annoyed with you if you bid on it.
Armor - Armor is a throwaway stat for Balance raiding. It's nice that you can take some extra hits from trash, but ultimately it's pointless. If cloth has stats you need, take it, but be considerate to the clothies.
Spell Penetration - This is no longer a PvE stat. Don't even consider it.
Strength/Agility - A primary melee class you are not.
Resilience - This stat provides no benefit in PvE.
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 7: The 2-piece bonus (10% increased Insect Swarm damage) is great especially if you get the IS glyph. The 4-piece bonus (5% Wrath and Starfire crit) is awesome.
Tier 9: The 2-piece bonus lets your Moonfire ticks crit. The 4-piece bonus increases the effect of Eclipse by 7%. Both are great bonuses, and remain viable well into Tier 10 content.
Tier 10: The 2-piece bonus increases Nature and Arcane damage by 15% for 6 seconds when you gain Clearcasting. It's a bit tricky to manage but corresponds to a significant DPS increase when you are continuously casting.
Idol of the Fallen Star (Razuvious-25) - A buff to Starfire damage is very strong, but consider upgrading.
Idol of the X (Quest) - Extra Wrath damage is nice, but this idol is obsolete in terms of item level.
Idol of the X (Emblem of Triumph) - Your Moonfire ticks have a chance to grant you 200 critical strike rating for 10 seconds. If you keep Moonfire up enough on your target, this proc will nearly always be active, so it essentially counts as 200 crit rating. Great idol.
Idol of the X (Emblem of Frost) - Your Moonfire ticks stack a buff of 44 crit rating up to 5 times. As with many of the other stacking effects present in the game, this ramps up and remains effective as long as you maintain your casting rotation. It's a good upgrade if you don't have the Triumph idol, a very slight upgrade if you do.
Head - Get this from the Kirin Tor.
Shoulders - Get this from the Sons of Hodir.
Cloak - +23 Haste Rating.
Chest - +10 stats.
Bracer - Spell power.
Gloves - Spell power. Only get hit rating if you can't reach the cap via gems.
Legs - Spell power and Spirit, for the synergy. Don't bother with the stamina spellthread.
Feet - Icewalker, for hit and crit rating, or Tuskarr's Vitality for the extra movement, which comes in very handy in raids.
Belt - Don't forget to pickup an extra socket for your belt.
Weapon - 63 spell power or Black Magic for a main hand weapon, 83 spell power for staves.
Rings - Spell power, if you're an Enchanter.
Many players say that, beyond meeting meta requirements, you should gem for pure spell power. I disagree; you get more overall stats if you aim for socket bonuses (as long as they aren't crappy ones like Stamina). If you're of this school, see below.
Red socket - Runed (Spell power), always.
Yellow socket - Get hit/spell power up to hit cap, or even just full yellow hit gems if you're really low (you can always replace them later), then go for spell power/crit. If you need blues to meet a meta requirement, go for a green gem with haste/Spirit or crit/Spirit.
Blue socket - Purified (spell power/Spirit) are the best here, to meet socket bonuses. If you're desperate for hit rating, get the green hit/mp5 gem.
Meta socket - Chaotic Skyflare Diamond is generally considered to be the best here, although there are some good alternatives: +25 spell power and 3% Intellect in particular is very attractive.
I include below only those glyphs that really matter to Balance.
Glyph of Starfire (Req. lvl. 20) - Your Starfire ability increases the duration of your Moonfire effect on the target by 3 sec, to a maximum of 9 sec.
Glyph of Wrath (Req. lvl. 15) - Reduces pushback taken when casting your Wrath spell by 50%.
Glyph of Moonfire (Req. lvl. 15) - Increases the periodic damage of your Moonfire ability by 75%, but initial damage is decreased by 90%.
Glyph of Starfall (Req. lvl. 60) - Increases the duration of Starfall by 2 sec.
Glyph of Hurricane (Req. lvl. 40) - Your Hurricane ability now also slows the movement speed of its victims by 20%.
Glyph of Innervate (Req. lvl. 40) - Your Innervate ability now has an additional 20% strength mana regeneration effect on you, in addition to the effect on your primary target.
Glyph of Insect Swarm - Your Insect Swarm ability does 20% additional damage but loses the hit chance debuff.
Glyph of Typhoon - Reduces the mana cost of Typhoon by 8% and removes the knockback effect.
Current theorycraft has the Starfire, Moonfire, and Insect Swarm glyphs as the best Major glyphs for raid DPS. For Minor glyphs, Glyph of the Wild, Thorns, Unburdened Rebirth, and possibly Typhoon (although there are some situations where the knockback can be valuable).
Food - Fish Feasts (or other +47 spell power food) are the best for raiding. If you aren't at hit cap, consider hit rating food instead.
Elixirs - Mighty Intellect and Spellpower are the best elixir combination if you don't want to burn a flask.
Flask - Flask of the Frost Wyrm is the obvious choice, with 125 spell power (or more for Alchemists).
VI. Spell Rotation
Any idiot can spam Starfire or Wrath. If that's what you plan to do, it's not really worth continuing. What maximizes Balance DPS is the proper management of Eclipse.
The basic concept is simple. Set up Faerie Fire and your DoTs. Cast Wrath until Lunar Eclipse procs, then start chain-casting Starfire. When Lunar Eclipse runs out, refresh your DoTs and continue casting Starfire until Solar Eclipse procs, then switch to Wrath. Rinse, repeat. The goal is to remain in Eclipse for as much of the fight as possible and always be casting the spell that Eclipse currently benefits. Do this while maintaining your DoTs and you've got it down pat.
Your theoretical goal should be 100% Eclipse uptime. In practice, that's not going to happen but you should aim for it. The higher your crit chance, the less time you will spend out of Eclipse. Note that you should seek to refresh your DoTs inbetween Eclipses, as the DPS increase from keeping them up is not insubstantial, but you can actually lose DPS by interrupting your Eclipse proc to refresh them. It's a subtle balancing act that lets the true Boomkin master shine.
For an opener, start with Faerie Fire unless someone else is applying it. You get the crit benefit regardless of who cast it, but if you don't have a Shadow Priest to apply Misery, the raid will need the extra 3% from your Improved Faerie Fire talent. Your next move depends on the presence of Ebon Plaguebringer (DK talent) or Curse of Elements. If those are in use, you don't need to worry about Earth and Moon. If they aren't, the sooner you can get a Wrath on the target, the sooner the raid can benefit from the debuff. Therefore, IFF + Wrath, then cast Moonfire and Insect Swarm to set up your DoTs.
Your next move depends on whether Wrath procs Eclipse. If it does, you can launch immediately into chain Starfires. If it does not, take this time to drop Starfall (if there are no adds to worry about aggroing) and Force of Nature, as they do a tremendous amount of damage for the time it takes to cast them. Then continue casting Wrath until you get Eclipse. If you get Lunar Eclipse immediately, you may wait to drop FoN/Starfall until the next break in your rotation.
Balance DPS occurs in bursts. When Eclipse is up, spam the corresponding spell as fast as you can for maximum DPS. When it's down, you take the time to maintain your DoTs and other spells, then work on setting up the next Eclipse. If you get a long chain of Eclipse procs... well, then welcome to the big numbers. This is one reason why critical strike chance is so valuable to Balance Druids.
- Never cancel a cast to switch rotations on an Eclipse proc. The DPS lost will be far more than you make up.
- Wait until after your DoTs expire to refresh them, rather than clipping them and losing the last tick.
- Without Improved Insect Swarm and the Glyph of Insect Swarm, IS is a very weak DoT and is only useful if your tanks require the extra avoidance on encounters with heavy incoming DPS. With the talent and glyph, it's worth putting into your rotation full-time.
- If you have an Eclipse proc, consider refreshing non-complementary DoTs after it's over, to avoid losing the extra damage. By complementary, I mean Insect Swarm for Wrath and Moonfire for Starfire, assuming you took the Improved Insect Swarm talent.
- Get an addon like Quartz that will show you your latency and global cooldown.
- Get an addon like Squawk and Awe that will show you the internal cooldown of Eclipse.
- If you use Force of Nature, try to get a feel for when your Shamans will be casting Heroism and drop them before it goes off. It'll dramatically increase their DPS. For the same reason, you can also ask your Warriors (or time the drop) to refresh Battle Shout when they go down.
- In movement heavy fights, try to time recasting DoTs while you're in motion. These are also good times to cast Starfall, Typhoon, or Force of Nature - basically any time when you cannot stop to cast Wrath or Starfire.
- Faerie Fire lasts 5 minutes, but pay attention to it and don't forget to recast it when it's about to expire.
In AoE situations, you always have the option to simply blast the targets with Hurricane until they are dead. However, for additional DPS (and only if it's safe for you to do so!), drop Starfall for some extra oomph. Typhoon can also be a fun spell to throw in; you can use it approximately every other Hurricane and it's a great tool for assisting with adds when you need to focus fire on the boss. Don't forget that if you are likely to take any damage, you can use Barkskin to avoid pushback while casting Hurricane. Watch the range/radius of your abilities! Typhoon and Starfall have a deceptively large area of effect and can easily pull mobs that you didn't intend to. Further, Typhoon (unglyphed) knocks mobs back and can interfere with your tanks; be sure to pay attention when using it.
VII. Additional Notes
By far the most powerful longevity talent for Balance Druids is Moonkin Form. At T10 gear levels, it's responsible for more mana regeneration than all other sources combined. Two things improve it: Intellect and critical hit chance, so work to maximize those. With enough of each, you literally don't need any other talents. In descending order of value after Moonkin Form on a point for point basis are Omen of Clarity, Intensity, Dreamstate, and finally the lowly Moonglow.
In situations where you don't have Replenishment, Blessing of Wisdom/Mana Spring Totem, or Judgement of Wisdom available, you may find yourself running low on mana during fights; in these cases make sure that you're making full use of your Innervate cooldown (i.e., don't wait until you're at 20% mana to use it). Otherwise, save Innervate for when you need to battle rez someone or if a healer is going OOM on an intense fight.
You have the ability to resurrect fellow players during combat, once every 10 minutes (i.e., the duration of most boss fights). Be prepared ahead of time with a rotation in mind among your fellow Druids for who will cast it first; this can save critical time during battles. If you rez a caster, consider using your Innervate on them afterwards to help them refill their mana pool. When rezzing someone, pay attention to where you are. If you're standing in (or will be standing in) something that can kill them, try to move first, or at least warn them not to accept the rez until the danger has passed.