6. Standard PvE talent setup:
There are a myriad of balance talent specs out there and all of them have various uses and are better at different gearing levels. Depending on what you choose to do with your balance druid, the best talent spec for you might be a little bit different than others that you see out there. For the most basic of builds, you want to go with a something that looks like this. The first thing you may notice about this build is that it has two unspent talent points. These two points are known as the floater points than are going to be apart of any balance druid's build. They are points that hold very nominal value in terms of how they can increase your DPS. Where you are going to place these two points in entirely dependent on a multitude of factors.
If you are finding yourself running out of mana frequently, which can happen a lot at the lower end of gearing, then it is generally better to put those points into Intensity. If you do not need mana, then there is more leeway in placement. Putting the points into Typhoon and/or Gale Winds offers more utility and AoE potential. You can also choose to go with Brambles to increase single target damage, and a slight increase in utility. Owlkin Frenzy is another option, but more on that later.
7. Talent overview:
Balance druids are going to split their talent points between the balance tree and the restoration tree; feral combat simply doesn't have anything in it that is remotely useful for a balance druid. As with Sacco's article, the Restoration 101 column and the Cat 101 column, italicized talents are considered optional or situational, and those with a strike-through should be avoided.
- Starlight Wrath: Mandatory, no questions asked. You cannot be a balance druid and not have this talent.
Genesis: This is a restoration talent. The only time that you would ever put any points into this talent is to put a single point here instead of into Moonglow in order to reach the next talent tier. Anything beyond that is a terrible choice.
- Moonglow: This talent is rather situational for balance druids. Generally speaking, we do not have any mana issues and thus do not need to spend talent points into it. That being said, there isn't many other places to put talents within this tier, so putting points into it isn't terrible.
- Nature's Majesty: Mandatory in so many ways. You must take this talent.
- Improved Moonfire: This is a tricky talent. It is a very good talent in of itself, however due to the way that damage modifiers work, this talent does not play very nice with the Glyph of Moonfire. It's a very minor DPS increase to take this talent, however between the choice of 3 points into Moonglow or 3 points into Genesis, it is the best option you can take. The increase to Crit is very nice while you have 2 piece T9, but becomes rather worthless after you switch to T10.
- Brambles: As i mentioned earlier, you can place your two 'floater' points into this talent. Beyond that, the talent is rather worthless.
- Nature's Grace: Although balance druids lament over how this talent interacts with Wrath, it is a very core talent, and one that you simply cannot pass up.
- Nature's Splendor: Increasing the duration of both Moonfire and Insect Swarm is a great thing. Take this talent.
- Nature's Reach: Threat reduction and increased range wrapped together in a very sexy package. Take this talent.
- Vengeance: Mandatory without question.
- Celestial Focus: Pushback resistance is a lot more useful than people give it credit for. The additional Haste is simply gravy.
- Lunar Guidance: Increased scaling from intellect. A must have.
- Insect Swarm: A new spell, and a fairly good one at that. Take it, take it, take it.
- Improved Insect Swarm: Although it is not quite as good as it seems, it is still a very good talent. One thing of note is that the damage increase to Wrath is not additive with other effects as it may seem but multiplicative. Even still, this is one of our weaker DPS talents. If you ever need to drop a DPS talent point for something else, you drop it from here.
- Dreamstate: I list this as a situational talent for one reason only. Due to the way balance druids gear, there is a gearing point where Dreamstate offers more mana regeneration than Intensity. Generally speaking, if your intellect is around twice that of your spirit, then Dreamstate is going to offer a higher mana return. That means, if you are having mana issues, it can sometimes be more beneficial to put your two floater points here instead of Intensity. This is especially true for the first point since it returns 4% Intellect into MP/5 while subsequent points return 3%.
- Moonfury: Mandatory
- Balance of Power: Mandatory. If you are over the Hit cap, do not drop points from Balance of Power to cover the difference. Drop your Hit gear instead.
- Moonkin Form: Mandatory. While the talent itself does not directly influence our DPS, Moonkin Form is our primary source of mana regeneration. Nothing else you could possibly get can compare to the mana that this talent will return to you.
- Improved Moonkin Form: More spell power and more raid utility. Get it.
- Improved Faerie Fire: This is not only an essential raid buff, but you also take it for your own needs. 3% more hit and crit is a very good thing. A must have talent.
- Owlkin Frenzy: Oh the issues this talent has caused. First and foremost, this is a PvP talent. It does, however, have some PvE application. Some forms of damage within PvE encounters can trigger Owlkin Frenzy, but not all of them. Pinning down exactly which things do and do not proc this effect is rather tricky because some of the coding for abilities is strange. In most cases, AoE attacks that a mob uses will not proc Owlkin Frenzy, but there are 'exceptions' of sorts. Abilities that are ground based such as Coldflame can proc OF, but I do not advise anyone to stand in these for that point. Abilities which are single target and AoE mixed, such as Saurfang's Blood Nova, can proc it, but only if you are the primary target and not the secondary target. Abilities that effect the entire raid such as Sindragosa's aura or the gas cloud during Festergut will not proc OF. However, Blood Queen Lana'thel's Shroud of Sorrow is currently bugged, or possibly working as intended, and does proc OF - this is currently the only known aura which can proc this effect. Other than the Blood Queen Lana'thel encounter, during which I would consider this talent virtually mandatory, not just for the increased damage but the pushback resistance as well, it is usually not worth it to pick up Owlkin Frenzy in a PvE build.
- Wrath of Cenarius: Other than being an awesome ring, it is also a mandatory talent.
- Eclipse: Love it or hated it, you must have this talent.
- Typhoon: Mostly a PvP talent, but it does have some PvE uses. UnGlyphed, it is very useful on the Death Bringer Saurfang encounter. While Glyphed, it is invaluable for AoE potential. Using Typhoon before casting Hurricane will virtually ensure that Nature's Grace is up. Also, a very skilled balance druid can make use of Typhoon on heavy movement encounters to put out additional damage.
- Force of Nature: You need it.
- Gale Winds: Nice AoE utility, but you do not need to have it. Use your floater points here if you prefer it over Brambles and don't need mana.
- Earth and Moon: Mandatory.
- Starfall: After the initial controversy surrounding this spell, it is currently in a very good spot. Although it doesn't do amazing single target damage, it is very useful for ensuring virtually 100% Nature's Grace uptime while active. Use it often.
- Improved Mark of the Wild: Nice boost to Mark of the Wild and a nifty little personal gain. No reason not to take it.
- Nature's Focus: Somewhat iffy. It is only good for the pushback resistance on Wrath, which is nominal at best. Wrath casts fast enough that pushback usually isn't much of an issue anyway, but that's not to say it isn't useful. Right now, I would really only suggest picking it up for the Blood Queen Lana'thel encounter, in which case drop the points from Improved Mark of the Wild in order to get it (but only if you have another druid in the raid with the talent.)
- Furor: 10% additional intellect is a good thing.
Naturalist: Worthless to a balance druid. Subtlety: Again, worthless.
- Natural Shapeshifter: The talent itself is actually pretty worthless in PvE, but you need this talent for Master Shapeshifter
- Intensity: If you need mana regeneration, then usually you would put your two floater points here, although keep in mind the caveat from Dreamstate.
- Omen of Clarity: This is the single most awesome ability for AoE that ever existed. Hurricane costs a lot of mana, but each time it hits a mob, it has a chance to proc Omen of Clarity. In most true AoE situations - meaning where Blizzard actually threw in 20 billion mobs they expect you to AoE - OoC will always proc before your next Hurricane making non-stop rocking, I mean AoE, possible. You also need this talent if you have 2 piece T10.
- Master Shapeshifter: Pretty much the whole reason for going into restoration to begin with. It's a very awesome talent.
I agree with Allison's sentiments that a vast majority of druid players have chosen feral as their leveling spec, but to them I say that you are missing out on a really good time. Personally, I have leveled four druids in total; all of them being balance. A little after Wrath came out, I leveled another druid from scratch during a bout of silliness, and I did so without training a single feral skill. Yes, I reached level 80 and didn't even have a feral combat tab in my spell book. No bear form, no cat form, no travel form; nothing. Thinking back, it wasn't too smart of me to do so since flight form is a feral ability and I spent more gold by getting standard flying training and a mount, but, alas, I enjoy showing off too much.
Anyway, balance leveling is certainly viable, it doesn't have nearly as much downtime as people might think it does, and, most importantly, it is beyond fun. The best thing about balance leveling is that a vast majority of the group quests that require you to kill an elite mob are easy to solo. Almost all of these mobs use melee attacks only - or very weak ranged abilities. Further, almost all of them are rootable. It may take some time, but just by keeping Entangling Roots, Moonfire, and Insect Swarm rolling on the mob, you will kill it without taking so much as a scratch. Thinking back, the only quests this is not applicable for is Overlord and the group quests in Dragonblight.
Lissanna's leveling guide is a very good resource for whichever path you choose to take. Shifting Perspectives also has a very solid leveling guide for both forms of play.
Possibly the best thing that Blizzard ever added into the game if you ask be, but, then again, I am something of an alt-oholic. Personally, I've collected just about all of them because I'm a bit crazy like that, but you won't need that many for just a balance druid. For a balance druid, you'll certainly want to pick up Preened Ironfeather Breastplate and Preened Ironfeather Shoulders not just for the stats but for the XP bonus as well. If you are lucky enough to win the Kalu'ak Fishing Derby then the Dread Pirate Ring is a good option to use as well. Stat-wise the ring isn't really all that great for a balance druid, especially with the new ones you can get from the random LFG rewards, but the additional 5% experience more than makes up for that. Getting two Discerning Eye of the Beast is a great addition as well. Not only do they have really good amounts of Spell Power on them, but the mana return really does go a long way in helping to reduce downtime.
When it comes to weapons, you have a few options to pick. The Dignified Headmaster's Charge is really the best option to go with, though. Picking up a Devout Aurastone Hammer isn't a bad option, however. There are plenty of caster off-hands you can pick up while leveling that are really great, and makes this option very viable. The only issue with the Hammer is that the MP/5 on it is so horribly low, being only 7 MP/5 at level 80, that it pretty much isn't even worth being there. This pushes the staff as being so much better for that reason alone.