Every Tuesday, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting druids and those who group with them. This week John Patricelli, the Big Bear Butt Blogger, finally brings some death chicken love with Nasirah, the Moonkin master, the driving force behind A Tale of Two Druids until her terminal altitis took over. Now, she writes Alts Ahoy, but she donned the feathery mantle of Moonkin once more to share her wisdom for this guide.
According to Nasirah, knowing when you are ready for Kara is much easier for tanks and healers. Tanks have certain stats they need to strive for in order to not get killed. Healers have certain stats they need to strive for in order to not let their tanks die.
As a damage caster, however, you personally need a certain amount of stamina to survive splash damage, but the group as a whole needs to have the DPS to beat an encounter within a given time frame (either an enrage timer built into the encounter, or simply before the healers' mana runs dry).
This means that people just entering Karazhan for the first time will probably be on the low end of damage output, while veterans who just need a couple more drops or are running for badges will be on the high end. It's a team effort, and you should talk to your raid leader if you want to know how you're contributing.
But you still need to have some idea of what goal you should be aiming for to help you know when you're ready to 'bring the goods'.
Continue on for more on what to look for, what goals to set and a list of gear to hunt!
Nasirah has a lot of experience in Karazhan, and she said that she really likes the minimum recommended gear values that Ten Ton Hammer has compiled as a starting point.
She does want to point out, however, that these are "minimum" stats. You can walk in the door with these stats, and start running the raid to get a feel for the encounters and maybe some Badges, but you should still be trying to gear up through other sources.
With those disclaimers out of the way, the base, minimum unbuffed stats for a Balance Druid are;
+600 Spell Damage
15% Spell Crit (before Moonkin aura*)
75 mp5 while casting
* The Ten Ton Hammer guide says "15% spell crit in caster form." This is slightly confusing because Moonkin certainly is a casting form, but I would assume that this means in default Night Elf/Tauren form, before shifting into Moonkin and getting the 5% increase, so that's how I'm interpreting it.
This is also before raid buffs and consumables. If you are at these stats with just gear and nothing else, you can start trying to get into a group. You won't have the DPS for Curator (unless the rest of the group is carrying you) or the Health to survive Shade, but this is at least a starting point.
Spell Hit Rating
Spell Hit is your single most important stat, until you get capped. Assuming you have 2/2 Balance of Power (which every raiding Moonkin should), you need 152 Spell Hit Rating to minimize your chance to miss against raid bosses.
Unfortunately there's always a 1% chance to miss, but until you get to that point, you're shorting your DPS with every spell that gets resisted. Get there as fast as you can, any way you can. Enchants, gems, gear (and if you're ever going to really fight for a piece of cloth gear, it'll be the ones that come with spell hit).
There are some good spell hit items in Karazhan, and I've heard that it's acceptable to go in not quite hit capped, and reach it through the new gear you get. Personally, I think it's better to get hit capped as soon as possible, and then re-gem and re-enchant as you get those upgrades. It's certainly possible to get hit capped without any Kara loot, so why wait? Just my personal opinion.
With Balance of Power, you only need 13 spell Hit in order to be capped against lvl 72 trash mobs, the highest number you'll ever see on trash. The bosses are level 73 and have the 152 Spell Hit Rating requirement, but it's not a bad idea to have a few pieces you swap in and out for boss fights, because all of that extra spell hit is going to waste on the trash. For the trash, you might enojy higher performance by equipping more items with +damage and +Crit, and swapping in the full Spell Hit for the boss fights.
Just don't forget to equip your Spell Hit set before boss fights, or you'll be very frustrated with your resist rate.
On Balance Druids and cloth armor;
Druids, like any class that wears leather or higher, have the ability to downgrade their armor if the stats on a particular piece are more desirable. Since armor isn't exactly a stat that caster DPS generally looks at, seems like there would be no issue wearing cloth, right?
Well, there are a couple of issues with it. First of all, you get the same armor bonus that your feral brethren do. Taking a cloth item that has 100 less armor than its leather counterpart actually gives you 500 less armor when you're in Moonkin form. It may not seem like much, but it will start to add up the more cloth you wear. You really shouldn't be getting hit anyway, but it's something to at least keep in mind when making gear decisions.
The greater issue is that, because we have the option to wear leather, many clothy casters don't take kindly to rolling against Druids for gear. To avoid drama, I usually don't take cloth drops on my Moonkin unless there are no clothies who want it. (Though if it's a holy priest rolling for an alternate set, you should be able to make a case on that one.) Basically, work out the rules AHEAD of time to avoid lots of headache, and if you're uncomfortable with a group that won't give you an equal roll on a drop you'd really like, you can always leave the group and find another.
However, no one can tell you that you can't have a cloth item that's a quest reward, reputation reward, or crafted item. So if they're an upgrade, go nuts.
Badge rewards are a great way to enhance your gear when you're unlucky with drops, or there's simply not many options out there. And most Badge rewards, being of epic quality, are going to be better than most other things you'll come across pre-Kara. However, it's unrealistic to expect someone who's gearing up for Kara to have an overabundance of badges.
So, prioritize. Get what gear you can from quests, rep, and drops first, even though they aren't as good as those shiny Badge rewards. Figure out where your holes are, which slots have the most limited options, and which slots you aren't likely to fill as soon as you walk in the door to Kara (Attumen drops bracers and a ring, Moroes has a lovely neck piece as well as a cloak, for example). Use your badges wisely.
Runed Living Ruby
Veiled Noble Topaz if not hit capped
Potent Noble Topaz
Veiled Noble Topaz or Great Dawnstone if not hit capped
Dazzling Talasite if you have mana issues
Dazzling Talasite if you have mana issues
(or the uncommon versions of all of those)
This is for meeting particular socket bonus or meta gem requirements. Otherwise, Runed Living Rubies in everything would be the best damage increase (assuming hit capped) . . . unless the socket bonus is spell damage in which case you might get a better increase in stats by using a Potent Noble Topaz in a yellow socket. (The Wowhead weighting system actually illustrates that fairly well. Example page - they list the set bonus in the gem column if they're meeting those requirements, otherwise they just put in all red gems for the damage.) But, if you're working on getting hit capped, or your damage is fine but your mana runs out way too fast, obviously gem for the stats you need, and pay attention to those socket bonuses as well.
I'm also pretty unfamiliar with Haste, and how that can contribute to DPS. If you don't have the mana to be throwing out spells faster, it's not going to do much except make you go out of mana faster. But, if you're hit capped, and you don't have mana troubles, Reckless Noble Topaz could be another Yellow or Red option. But since those gems were only introduced recently, and I've never come across drops with haste on them (nor had enough Badges to get any rewards with it), I'm just really not all that familiar with the stat.
And the only headpiece on the list that even has a meta socket is the engineering one, but there are a few cloth options out there (the Dungeon 3 head pieces at the very least) so just for sake of being complete, Insightful Earthstorm or Ember Skyfire would be my top picks.
Mooncrest Headdress - from Blast the Infernals! in Shadowmoon Valley (horde version)
Very easily attainable, bare minimum headpiece.
Circlet of the Starcaller - from Dimensius the All-Devouring in Netherstorm
Solid headpiece for minimal effort, though it requires a group to complete the string.
Druidic Helmet of Second Sight - from Teron Gorefiend, I am... in Shadowmoon Valley (horde version)
Most customizable, and best damage if you gem for it, but involves a long string and requires a group.
Moon-Crown Antlers - from Old Hillsbrad, heroic mode (2nd boss)
Part of a T2 look-alike set designed for Balance druids, collect them all! Honestly probably not worth the effort since it's comparable to the quest rewards, but an option if you need spell hit.
Windscale Hood - crafted with Leatherworking, BoE
Good option if you have gold to spare, but overall quite comparable to a gemmed Druidic Helmet of Second Sight.
Magnified Moon Specs - crafted with Engineering, BoP
As always, engineers get the best headpieces in the game. If you're an engineer you should definitely be wearing this.
Spellstrike Hood - crafted with Tailoring, BoE
Expensive, but a very strong option, especially if you need spell hit.
Glyph of Power - Revered with Sha'tar
Alternatively, Heavy Knothide Armor Kits can be placed on this slot, for a stamina boost until you get the necessary rep.
Natasha's Arcane Filament/Natasha's Ember Necklace - from The Hound-Master in Blade's Edge Mountains
Both very strong starter necklaces, depending on what stats you're looking for. If you're not looking to add spell hit to this slot, either of these could last until Karazhan.
Brooch of Heightened Potential - from Shadow Labyrinth, normal or heroic (2nd boss)
This is a well-balanced option, providing a bit of spell hit rating, and fairly easy to obtain.
Hydra-fang Necklace - from Underbog, heroic mode (2nd boss)
Less damage and slightly lower stats, but more spell hit rating than the above option.
Shattered Sun Pendant of Acumen - available at Exalted with Shattered Sun Offensive
This is a very strong necklace, even without the Aldor/Scryer bonus. Best option pre-Kara if you don't need the spell hit.
Elekk Hide Spaulders - from The Fallen Exarch in Terokkar Forest
Despite being from a very early quest, these are very solid starter shoulders.
Netherfused Pauldrons - from Turning Point in Netherstorm
A Scryer-only quest, unfortunately for Aldors. Lower damage but higher stats than Elekk Hide, another strong option depending on what your gear needs.
Lunar-Claw Pauldrons - from Mechanar, normal or heroic (1st boss)
Another piece of the T2 look-alike set. Very similar stats to the Netherfused Pauldrons.
Mantle of Three Terrors - from Black Morass, normal or heroic (1st boss)
You may have to fight clothies for this, but this is a very good spell hit option.
(Greater) Inscription of Discipline - Honored/Exalted with Aldor
(Greater) Inscription of the Orb - Honored/Exalted with Scryer
Alternatively, Inscription of the Orcale at Honored with Scryer offers mp5, if that's needed more than crit rating. At exalted, however, definitely get the Orb.
Ogre Slayer's Cover - from Cho'war the Pillager in Nagrand (horde version)
If you have this around from leveling, it's still a decent option for new 70's.
Cloak of Woven Energy - from Hitting the Motherlode in Netherstorm
Really a sidegrade from the Ogre Slayer's, with a bit more damage, but fewer stats. Still, an easily attainable option depending on what stats you need, or if you didn't level as Balance and missed the Nagrand quest reward.
Cloak of the Black Void - crafted with Tailoring, BoE
Even more damage, even fewer stats. Fairly cheap to make, and a good option for boosting your spell damage.
Sethekk Oracle Cloak - from Sethekk Halls, normal or heroic (final boss)
This is more balanced than the other options, with good stats, a bit lower damage, but includes spell hit. If you can get it, this is a solid pre-Kara cloak to help you get hit-capped.
Cloak of the Betrayed - from Magisters' Terrace, normal mode (3rd boss)
A fairly slight upgrade over the Sethekk Oracle Cloak, this is another spell hit option if you can get it.
Baba's Cloak of Arcanistry - from Mechanar, normal or heroic (final boss)
Another well-balanced cloak if you don't need the spell hit.
Sacred Feather Vest - from Zeth'gor Must Burn! (Alliance) or Grillok "Darkeye" (Horde) in Hellfire Peninsula
What, a HELLFIRE reward? Yes, but it's AMAZING for its level, and viable at 70 if you still have it around.
Grom'tor's Friend's Cousin's Tunic - from The Cipher of Damnation - The First Fragment Recovered in Shadowmoon Valley
Another long Shadowmoon quest chain, but this only requires doing one of the sub-strings, and is completely soloable. Fairly slight upgrade of the Hellfire one.
Starry Robes of the Crescent - from Mana-Tombs, heroic mode (1st boss)
Part of the T2 look-alike set. Very strong option if you can get it.
Tunic of the Nightwatcher - from Underbog, normal mode (3rd boss)
If you didn't get this while leveling, you may consider going back to farm for it now. Gemmed, it's comparable to the Heroic drop above, despite its low level.
Windhawk Hauberk - crafted with Leatherworking, BoP
Part of the 3-piece BoP set for Tribal Leatherworkers. Is a strong piece for balance druids, and can serve well if you're asked to heal for a particular fight. There is a lesser version available at lvl 65 (Living Crystal Breastplate) but now that nethers are no longer BoP, there's no reason not to upgrade to this right at 70.
Auchenai Anchorite's Robe - from Everything Will Be Alright in Auchenai Crypts
Very strong chestpiece with a good amount of spell hit, and sockets for customization.
Robe of the Crimson Order - random BoE drop
If you already did the Crypts quest and missed out on that piece, you may find this on the Auction House. Another solid hit piece, with higher stats, but no sockets.
Restore Mana Prime
Mana Infused Wristugards - from A Fate Worse Than Death in Netherstorm
Easy to get, and a good starter piece.
Moon-Touched Bands - from Blood Furnace, heroic mode (1st boss)
Part of the T2 look-alike set. Strong base stats if you can get them, but keep in mind that Attumen drops some very nice leather bracers, so don't worry too much about finding the best-in-slot pre-Kara.
Windhawk Bracers - crafted with Leatherworking, BoP
Like the chest piece, this is the best option for Tribal Leatherworkers, and a nice boost for switching to heals mid-fight if necessary.
Crimson Bracers of Gloom - from Ramparts, heroic mode (2nd boss)
Another cloth drop that may not come easily to you, but worth mentioning as your only option for spell hit in this slot.
Restore Mana Prime
Harmony's Touch - from Building a Perimeter in Netherstorm
Another soloable quest reward that should be easy to obtain right at 70.
Grips of the Lunar Eclipse - from Old Hillsbrad, heroic mode (1st boss)
Part of the T2 look-alike set. Very solid mix of damage and base stats.
Starlight Gauntlets - from Underbog, normal mode (1st boss)
Like the chest item Tunic of the Nightwatcher, this can be gemmed to comparable level of the Heroic drop above.
Gloves of Oblivion - from Shattered Halls, normal or heroic (final boss)
These are part of the warlock dungeon set, but if no warlocks are in your group or want the item, these are some very solid gloves, especially if you're not hit-capped.
Gloves of Pandemonium - random BoE drop
If you don't have luck with the Gloves of Oblivion, these are another spell-hit option.
Alternatively, Blasting is very inexpensive, but won't increase your damage output as much as Major Spellpower, and is best used as a temporary enchant.
That does it for the first part of this guide to moonkin gear possibilities pre-Karazhan. Tune in next week when we conclude with Part 2!
My thanks once again, of course, to Nasirah, who has done an incredible amount of work and brought a great deal of insight into this class. May your Shadow Priest someday grow as face melty as your Moonkin is boomy!