Two weeks ago I talked about grouping with Feral druids. This week I promised to focus on Balance (Moonkin) and Restoration (Healing) specs. But when I started writing about the Balance druids, the article grew quite large. So apologies to the Restoration druids out there looking for their day in the sun, you will have to wait two more weeks for my next column. Today's article is focusing squarely on the ups and downs of grouping with our Boomkin brothers.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A MOONKIN DRUID: DPS, baby. And plenty of it. Moonkin spec got a nice, fat dps boost with the Burning Crusade expansion. Their current arsenal includes two dots, two different flavored nukes, an AE damage dealer, 5% crit aura, damage-boosting and crit-boosting talents plus the treant pets if the druid took the 41pt talent. Before the expansion, all this firepower would drain the druid's mana in no time, but the days of Oomkin are no more. Between mana-saving and mana-regenerating Talents plus better itemization, Balance druids can conserve mana with the best of ranged damage dealers. Welcome to the Age of Boomkin.
Emergency Healing. Like any other non-healing druid spec, Balance druids are more than capable of off healing in a pinch. They must shift out of Moonkin form to do it, but when the group's health stabilizes, the druid can always shift right back and help with the clean up work. Who wouldn't want a mage who can group heal?
Emergency Crowd Control. At level 70 druids get a limited crowd control spell: Cyclone. It can render a mob unable to act for 6 secs on the first cast, 3 secs on the second and 1 sec on the last. After that the mob becomes immune to Cyclone for a short time. I know 10 seconds of crowd control doesn't sound like a lot, but I guarantee you'll change your mind when a mob refuses to stop pounding on the healer or makes a run for help. Plus, this spell is not restricted to select mob types unlike sheep or sap. Cyclone is also useful for split pulling and is castable while remaining in Moonkin form.
Melee. Yes, that's right. Don't be surprised if you see the big owlbear dude swinging his big glowy staff. While in Moonkin form, the druid can gain mana back by doing physical attacks. If the druid is OOM, his mana potion and Innervate are on cooldown and the battle is still raging, this is the fastest way for him to regain the mana he needs to start tossing out the big bombs again. And if he takes a few hits himself, remember he has enhanced AC while in Moonkin form. It's also a useful if the druid has drawn aggro. He can regain mana through physcial attacks while the main tank works to regain the mob's attention.
Emergency Off Tank. I'll delve into it more under the Playstyle heading below, but suffice it to say, a leather wearing druid with the Moonkin 400% AC boost and the Barkskin spell (20% damage reduction for 15 secs) is anything but squishy. Some Balance druids even Main Tank trash this way. Sure they don't have high levels of dodge, parry or block, but if an add is beelining for the Priest, a Moonkin can step in until the main tank can catch up. And that can be the difference between a successful run and a corpse run.
Finally, expect the Balance Druid to understand his own aggro. He should not be opening up with his biggest nuke and then shrugging off the irritation of his groupmates because he can take more hits than a clothie. Controlling aggro is the single most important skill any player can have. Often druids leveled up under a different spec, then change to Balance for BC. They may still be on a learning curve when it comes to grouping in Moonkin form. If you have a nuke happy Boomkin in your group, ask him politely to hold off on the major firepower for a few seconds until the tank gains solid aggro. Moonkin have plenty of other low aggro spells they can be casting at the opening of the fight to keep busy (i.e. Faerie Fire for mob AC reduction, Insect Swarm to decrease mobs chance to hit, etc.)
WHAT NOT TO EXPECT FROM A MOONKIN DRUID: While a Balance druid can rival, and sometimes surpass, a mage in damage to a single target, they are not ideal for AE damage or intricate, long lasting crowd control. Also, don't expect their summoned trees to tank. They can be used as short crowd control, but will die very quickly if they are hit. They are high damage/low health pets.
BALANCE DRUID PLAYSTYLES: There are three major styles of Balance play: Panzerkin aka Doomkin, Clothkin and Hybrids.
Panzerkin: These Balance druids wear a lot of leather gear for the AC and STA. They don't mind taking melee damage. They like to offtank or crowd control by gaining aggro. The extreme ones will even drop Talent points into the feral tree to get the 10% boost to AC from items Talent meant for feral tanks. If you group with one of them, accept that they are good offtanks and let them do their thing.
Clothkin: Stats on leather armor for Balance druid are usually spread out to include a little spell damage and a little healing boost. Many druids want to see big damage numbers so they will sacrifice the AC & STA that leather offers in exchange for the larger amounts of spell damage that cloth items can provide. If you group with one of them, don't expect them to offtank effectively. Also, their off healing is weaker due to the lack of +heal on their gear. They usually carry a set of healing gear if they know an encounter will require heavy healing from them (i.e. a boss encounter.)
Hybrids: These druids have split their talents between Balance and Restoration, usually with an emphasis on the Balance tree. Their Leather gear gives them equal boosts to damage and healing. They are very good at switching between the two roles mid-fight. You may even see them switching into cat form when OOM and attacking to regain their mana quicker.
That's it for today. In two weeks, I will give Restoration druids some Feature Article loving as well as discuss loot issues for grouping druids as I continue my How To Group With A Druid series. Until then, enjoy next week's Druid column by David Bowers.
[Gorgeous painting illustrated by Seiunchin]