LEVEL 36 CONTINUED
Balance Druids at 36 will still be using the Root + nuke approach, or just nukes on caster and ranged mobs (for whom Roots would be superfluous). Although armor isn't a concern for spell DPS, it's still most efficient to use a combination of Insect Swarm + Moonfire + Entangling Roots on higher-health targets to keep draining their health to more manageable levels (although Balance is saddled with the annoyance of how quickly Roots tend to break under these circumstances). Lower-health targets can be nuked down faster with Wrath spam, a combination of Moonfire and Wrath, or the use of a Wrath + Starfire + Wrath rotation that has Starfire landing on a mob shortly before or after the first Wrath reaches it. Because mana efficiency is still a concern for Balance at this level, you'll want to experiment with the use of Moonfire and Insect Swarm on mobs with varying HP values. Moonfire in particular tends to gulp mana quickly unless the DoT is allowed to run its full duration, and it's inefficient at finishing off a fleeing low-health target even if it's the quickest means of doing so. As with Feral, use your best judgment while you're out grinding on quest mobs.
- Frenzied Regeneration: Pre-3.0.2, this ability converted 100 rage over 10 seconds into a static amount of health -- I want to say 2500? -- which was a sick joke given the raid-buffed health pool of even a poorly-geared Bear. I used to scoff at Warriors who wanted this supposedly-overpowered and then-6 minute "cooldown," and offered to trade it for Last Stand and Shield Wall (no takers). Well, they got the last laugh, as they so often do; we got Survival Instincts and Barkskin in forms, and they got Enraged Regeneration, which is Frenzied Regeneration but...uh, better (or at the very least, a more reliable health return). At level 36, you're unlikely to get much use from Frenzied Regen because the odds of your having a full rage bar are vanishingly small. Don't get me wrong -- It can still save you, but you may not get the ability's full benefit because it's almost impossible to generate enough rage to compensate for what Frenzied will attempt to drain. At 80, how much use you get out of it will depend on how quickly your rage bar is refilling itself while the ability is active. If you're raid-tanking, odds are good you'll get the full heal because you should have more than enough rage to convert into health without running dry. If you're in a 5-man...it'll be hit or miss. To improve the odds of getting the maximum possible health return, stop using special attacks (particularly Maul) and just auto-attack while Frenzied is up. A few lucky Primal Fury procs and/or taking enough damage in the meantime should wind up giving you the full heal.
The other problem with the rage-to-health conversion issue (and again, this is mostly a problem in 5-mans) is that you kiss most of your threat generation good-bye for its duration. I would recommend downloading and using a mod like OptiTaunt that will automatically warn your party/raid that you've had to use a cooldown; if you have to pop Frenzied, your DPS needs to know that the following 10 seconds would be an ill-advised time to use their biggest, nastiest abilities on whatever it is you're trying to convince to keep hitting you.
- Regrowth, rank 5: standard upgrade.
- Revive, rank 3: standard upgrade.
- Rip, rank 3: standard upgrade.
- Tiger's Fury, rank 2: standard upgrade.
More soon-to-be-axed ability ranks!
- Claw, rank 3: standard upgrade.
- Entangling Roots, rank 4: standard upgrade.
- Healing Touch, rank 7: standard upgrade.
- Hibernate, rank 2: standard upgrade.
- Nature's Grasp, rank 4: standard upgrade.
- Shred, rank 3: standard upgrade.
- Soothe Animal, rank 2: standard upgrade.
- Wrath, rank 6: standard upgrade.
Ah, the big four-oh. Balance will be getting a slightly bigger change to its overall effectiveness here with its iconic 31-point talent Moonkin Form; Ferals will be getting Leader of the Pack, which duplicates the Moonkin's crit buff but doesn't otherwise alter survivability the way the giant pewpewlazerchikin form does. I'd actually argue that for leveling purposes, Ferals will note more of a difference from Improved Leader of the Pack, which I still think is one of the greatest talents yet devised by God or man, but we'll be talking about that next week.
Without further ado:
- MOONKIN FORM (BALANCE 31-POINT TALENT): I certainly hope you like being a fat owlbear, because you can count on DPSing almost exclusively in Moonkin from here until eternity unless you respec. The talent was added in patch 1.8 while Blizzard was overhauling Druid talent trees in an attempt to make something that wasn't Restoration even minimally viable, and moonkin have been on a slow ascendance since then (you can read a little more background here and here). Balance's grinding spell rotation doesn't alter noticeably with the addition of Moonkin, but your survivability and mana efficiency get a nice boost. You'll be able to weather more and bigger melee hits than most of your fellow caster DPS, and the 5% crit bonus is not only very welcome at this level, but it'll increase the likelihood of a 2% total mana return. As with your Feral brethren, you can now reasonably expect to be in form most of the time while DPSing, and only popping out when it becomes necessary to heal. And -- you know you want to -- /dance and /cower.
- LEADER OF THE PACK (FERAL 31-POINT TALENT): I could almost hate this talent as it's probably named for the ideological contemporary of "Last Kiss," the Pearl Jam version of which is one of the most horrible songs ever recorded and for which I seriously considered investing in firearms back when it was being played nonstop. It takes precious seconds to get up from one's desk and yank the radio's plug out from the wall, whereas a hail of bullets is gratifyingly instantaneous. Where was I? Oh. As with Moonkin Form, LotP won't really have any effect on your grinding rotation apart from speeding the whole process, but at 80, 5% melee and ranged crit is pretty close to being a must-have raid buff.
- Hurricane, rank 1: This used to be Balance's 31-point talent and on a 1-minute cooldown, which played a big role in why Balance was an even bigger joke than Feral (if that's possible) for years. Nowadays, Hurricane is extremely potent and worth your respect, but it still has to be channeled. I dearly miss the small window of time between patch 3.0.2 and Wrath's release, where the Hurricane crits could net you the 2% mana return from Moonkin form -- you could spam that spell on every trash pull and go the length of an instance without once dropping below 95% mana. Ah, for the days of yore. Until you get Starfall (which will be 60 at the earliest), Hurricane is your only AoE, and will, for the forseeable future, be the only Balance AoE ability that can be spammed. OK, Typhoon causes AoE damage, but it's not really an AoE as such.
- Innervate: Once the 31-point Restoration talent and, oddly enough, the bane of Druids everywhere because there wasn't anything to equal it in the Balance or Feral trees. Patch 3.2 saw one of its mechanics changed -- it now returns half the mana it once did, but is also 3 minutes rather than 6 minutes. What does this mean for you? While leveling this is actually great because you aren't yet packing the +int that makes it tough for a single Innervate to fill up your bar, and you should get into the habit of using Innervate when it's off cooldown to keep grinding. Ferals, particularly once they're sitting on ILotP, will probably find themselves requiring nothing more than a very occasional Innervate to keep them going without water; Balance may still have to stop and drink every so often, but will still be running around with a full mana bar or close to it (depending on the quality of your gear) after Innervating. Enjoy it while it lasts!
- Cower, rank 2: standard upgrade, if you've even got it on your bars at all.
- Ferocious Bite, rank 2: standard upgrade.
- Mark of the Wild, rank 5: standard upgrade. You've still got this up all the time, yes yes?
- Moonfire, rank 7: standard upgrade.
- Prowl, rank 2: standard upgrade.
- Rebirth, rank 3: standard upgrade, but don't forget to pick up some Ashwood Seeds at a local reagent vendor.
- Rejuvenation, rank 7: standard upgrade.
- Tranquility, rank 2: standard upgrade.
Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of truth, beauty, and insight concerning the Druid class. Sometimes it finds the latter, or something good enough for government work. Whether you're a Bear, Cat, Moonkin, Tree, or -- for some unaccountable reason -- stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny on Druid changes in patch 3.2, questions and answers on new Bear and Cat forms, and thoughts on why (or why not) you should be playing the class.