Tier 4: Soul of the Force of Nature Incarnate
This tier is both the most interesting tier and the least interesting tier in the list. It's the most interesting, because, well, this one directly affects your DPS, unlike all those other "silly" healing talents. Unfortunately, that also makes it the least interesting, because that means theorycrafters will just figure out what works the best, and everybody picks that one. The best-case scenario is that all the talents end up reasonably balanced, so I'm going to approach this discussion with that in mind.
First up is Soul of the Forest, which is a fairly bland passive talent. For easily distracted people like me, though, passive is good. Passive means "I don't have to do anything special to get a DPS increase out of this thing." Joking aside, it'll probably end up (once the balancing is complete) as narrowly the highest-DPS talent for feral and balance, but only if you get to stay attacking the boss 100% of the time. Any off-DPS time starts to cut into its value significantly.
If you're looking for more burst-type DPS (or just sweet armored forms), Incarnation is the way to go. Feral's version is very synergistic; you'll use it in concert with Berserk and Nature's Vigil, and replace Shred with Ravage in your rotation. When popping all three cooldowns at once, the amount of single-target damage you can do is pretty insane. Unfortunately, it's also inflexible; you pretty much have to use it with Berserk, as it's very difficult to maintain enough combo point generation otherwise with current gear levels.
Balance is similar, but you'll be maximizing Incarnation by using it with Celestial Alignment to "rerun." Get into the desired eclipse, use Inc, pop your DoTs and start your nuke spam as you would normally. When you leave the eclipse, instead of proceeding to the other side, just use CA and start again. As with SOTF, though, you need 30 seconds of uninterrupted time to use it to its fullest extent.
Finally, if you've got one of those annoying high-mobility fights where DPS time is limited, then Force of Nature shines. Moonkin, of course, are used to this talent, but both specs can make use of it since its essentially a click-and-go spell. I also see this getting used frequently in PvP for control purposes, as the treants will root (balance) or stun (feral) whatever they're beating on.
Tier 5: There's a Bear There, I Declare
Now we reach the bear-themed tier, which means another round of crowd control talents. As with tier 3, these will all be highly situational, so grab whatever can best help you or your group.
Disorienting Roar is an AoE disorient that frankly, isn't too helpful. Since disorient breaks on damage, it won't do much in an group environment where damage flies all over the place, and it only lasts for three seconds anyway. For soloing, it's not terrible if you overpull and need to skedaddle, but Mass Entanglement or Typhoon does that better anyway.
Sadly, you can't use Ursol's Vortex to suck people off ledges. (What you can do, though, is use it to group them up for Typhoon. /evillaugh.) It's a good spell for blocking off an area temporarily. To use it effectively, you don't want to place it in the midst of a group of creatures or players you're trying to control; instead, place it in front of them. They'll enter, be slowed, walk all the way to the far side, then get sucked back to the middle. Then, Mass Entangle them. Heh.
Last, but definitely not least, is Mighty Bash (since apparently just Bash wasn't epic enough for a level 75 talent). At first, I was pretty dismissive of it since it wasn't new. The more I consider the other talents, though, the more I realize a 5-second stun with a 50-second cooldown is actually pretty darned good; that's Hammer of Justice-quality. The old Bash wasn't overly used because you had to shift to bear to use it, but now that it's usable in any form, it's quite nice.
Tier 6: I Just Invited You, and This is Crazy, But You're a Druid, so Heal Me Maybe?
Otherwise known as "the talent tier where we'll just throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what makes sense."
I don't want to talk about Heart of the Wild. I really don't, because it makes me angry at what I see as a missed opportunity. On paper, it looked like a backdoor way to introduce the concept of shifting raid roles on the fly, which would introduce some needed dynamism to the game. In order for that to work, though, a HOTW druid would need to be able to stop doing his current role and do another role at 80 to 90% efficiency -- and that hasn't been the case. I haven't seen a ton of data, but from my limited testing and anecdotal reports, same-gear swaps (G->F, R->B) are performing at about 50 to 60% efficiency, with opposite-gear swaps below that. That's not very useful. Instead of fixing that, though, they just slapped a passive bonus on the talent and called it a day. Ugh.
As for Dream of Cenarius, I haven't the slightest clue where this talent will end up. It's been buffed, nerfed, and redesigned several times already. I have a feeling the current design will get changed yet again, because it almost forces you to take Nature's Swiftness to put it to good use. I'm going to put this talent aside for now and revisit it later.
That leaves us with Nature's Vigil, which is a fairly unremarkable level 90 talent. The healing bonus is weak enough that you'll just get it as a side effect when you pop it for the damage, which you will for any fight that requires burst. Overall, the end result ends up being pretty static. Instead of mixing and matching in tiers 4 and 6, if you need burst DPS, you'll take Incarnation and Nature's Vigil. If it's a high-movement fight, you'll take Force of Nature and possibly Dream of Cenarius. Otherwise, Soul of the Forest and Heart of the Wild.
To sum up, while there's clearly still room for the talents to change some more, I'm not going to mince words. The new talents feel like a missed opportunity for druids. Yes, simplification was sorely needed, but trying to cram four separate roles into one single set of talents has led to several passive-type talents that are there solely for balance purposes, not because they're interesting, which is exactly what the new system was supposed to combat. While I like the six-talent model, I hope they reconsider the talent system for the next expansion and give each specialization an individual talent grid.
What are your thoughts? Sound off in the comments!
Every week, Shifting Perspectives: Balance brings you druidic truth, beauty and insight ... from a moonkin's perspective. We'll help you level your brand new balance druid, tweak your UI and your endgame gear, analyze balance racials and abilities, and even walk you through PVP as a balance druid.