Shifting Perspectives: New Druid Leveling - 1 through 5

John Patricelli
J. Patricelli|12.25.07

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Shifting Perspectives: New Druid Leveling - 1 through 5

Every Tuesday, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting druids and those who group with them. This week John Patricelli, sometimes known as the Big Bear Butt Blogger, finally starts his series on leveling a new Druid, covering the strategies of your first 5 levels.

In this week's column, we're going to begin to have some fun with our brand new level 1 Druid!

Check out our Level 1 Tauren Druid off to the right... isn't he a handsome devil? And modest, too!

Your first five levels set the tone for how your Druid will feel.

It's all about casting spells for ranged combat.

You're going to want to spend as much time burning them down on the run as you can, and minimize the time you spend whacking them in the face with your stick.

In many ways, the lessons you can learn here about casting strategies will form the foundation of your play style, at least until you finally get that workhorse of Druid leveling at 20; the Cat form.

Let's start the fun right at level one, with a brief overview of your starting abilities.

Level One

The class abilities the Druid starts with at level 1 are Wrath and Healing Touch. You'll find icons for them already on your button bar.

Wrath is a ranged spell that deals nature-based damage to targets up to 30 yards away.

Healing Touch is a healing spell that you can cast either on yourself, or on another friendly character up to 40 yards away.

Both Wrath and Healing Touch take 1.5 seconds to cast.

If you are trying to cast and you're taking damage, your spell will be 'interrupted', prolonging the casting time. So word to the wise, once the bad guys are in your face, it will take you much longer to get each spell off than the base 1.5 seconds. And that time spent casting is time not spent dealing damage or healing yourself.

For your first few levels, the strategy I recommend is, in effect, to select your target and blast away with Wrath.

Wait, wait, let's not get the noose out to lynch me just yet. There is a bit more to it than that.

First, select any enemy by right-clicking on them.

Note: Right-clicking with your mouse on a target activates auto-attack; when your enemy reaches melee range, you will automatically begin attacking with your equipped weapon. Left-clicking will select a target for you, but will not activate auto-attack. An important distinction when you are casting Entangling Roots on a target later, and do not want to risk breaking your roots by causing melee damage accidentally.

With a target selected, take a look at the Wrath icon on your button bar.

By default, the graphic icon has a number displayed on it. That number is the hot key you can press on the keyboard to activate the ability, or of course you can click on the icon directly with the mouse.

The number on the icon serves not only as a hot key, but also as a range indicator. The displayed number changes color depending on your range to the selected target. If the target is within your range, the number will be white. if you are out of range, then the number will change color to red. You can use this to help you judge the exact distance to your target for ranged damage spells.

Now that you know how to estimate your range to the target, you're ready to begin your first fight.

You've already got a target selected, with auto-attack on. Your Druid should be standing there, brandishing his or her weapon in a threatening manner at the bad guy.

Now, simply back up until the number on your Wrath icon changes from white to red. Move a smidgen back in until it just turns white, and you are at your extreme casting range of 30 yards.

Begin casting Wrath, and watch as you go through the 1.5 second casting time animation. As soon as your casting time is up, the Wrath ball of energy heads down-range towards your target.

Take note, on this first cast, that the ball of energy seems to travel very slowly towards the target. That's not an optical illusion; the ball of energy really is taking it's own sweet time getting there.

Don't waste that time!

Even though you've fired off a great big ball of energy at your target, he remains blissfully unaware of the fate that awaits him. While your ball of energy is still moving towards the unsuspecting target, get your next Wrath spell started casting.

If you begin your casting from extreme range, you can easily fire off two or three Wrath spells before your target gets to melee range and starts chewing on your ankle.

Fire your Wrath spells off as fast as you can, and when the target finally gets into melee range, finish him off with a few good, solid whacks with your staff.

Okay, the bad guy is dead, but my blue bar went down to nothing. What gives?

Well, casting those Wrath spells isn't free. They cost mana, deducted from your mana pool. And that blue bar under your portrait displays your remaining mana.

Each time you cast Wrath (Rank 1), it costs you 20 mana a shot.

With the low mana levels you have to work with at levels 1 and 2, you will find that casting Wrath or any other combination of spells repeatedly will quickly drain your mana down to nothing.

As you attack your enemies with repeated castings of Wrath, you are also experiencing your first encounter with what is known as the '5 second rule'.

What the 5 second rule means is that, as long as you are casting, and for five seconds after you are finished casting your last spell, you will not regenerate any mana on your own.

Note: For Druids, the exception to 0% mana regeneration during the 5 second rule is the talent Intensity, that allows 10% - 30% mana regeneration to continue during casting. Intensity is available starting at level 20 after spending a minimum of 10 points in the Restoration talent tree.

Normally, when a Druid is in casting form (your normal two-legged base form, whether Tauren or Night Elf), you regenerate a certain amount of your mana every two seconds, based on your Spirit stat. That two second mark is sometimes called a 'tick', since that is the effect you see on your mana bar; every two seconds you spend outside the 5 second rule, you see your mana jump up a 'tick'. As soon as your first cast spell goes off and mana is spent, your mana regeneration is 'interrupted', and you are at the mercy of the 5 second rule.

For more advanced players, the formula for Druid mana regenerated each 2 second 'tick' is [Spirit/4.5+15].

The important thing to remember about mana regen at this stage of the game is simply that you cannot blast away all day. You need to pace yourself, and get into a rhythm where you can do the maximum amount of damage up front with your ranged spells, and then finish the bad guy off with melee attacks while letting your expended mana replenish itself.

Later on in the game, you'll be able to use potions to regain mana immediately while casting, such as the Minor Mana Potion. For now, while out of combat in-between battles, you can regain your mana more quickly by drinking consumable beverages such as Refreshing Spring Water. I highly recommend you carry a stack everywhere, and use them often to minimize the time spent between battles.

So to recap; as long as you are casting any spells, offensive or defensive, and for five seconds after you stop, you do not naturally regenerate mana. This leads to the conclusion that, to stay in continuous combat, you need to be out of combat towards the end of each fight to let your mana start to regenerate.

So the combat sequence for your first level;

  • Select a target with right-click.
  • Move to extreme casting range, and begin blasting away with Wrath.
  • Continue casting Wrath as quickly as possible, trying to get three Wraths off on your target before he reaches melee range.
  • Cease casting and finish your opponent off in melee combat, letting your mana begin to regen.
  • Select a new target, move to position, and wait for full mana before beginning the sequence again.

Things to watch; as you cease casting and engage in melee combat, watch as, after 5 seconds, your mana begins to regenerate in 'ticks' during the last part of the fight. If you time it right, by the time you have finished the target off, you should be back at reasonable mana levels and be ready to immediately start your next fight without using water or sitting around.

Level Two - Three

Complete a few quests, kill a few beasts, and just as you're getting warmed up, you'll reach level 2. Go and find your class trainer, where you will learn your next class ability, Mark of the Wild.

At level 2, Mark of the Wild gives you or any friendly target you cast it on +25 Armor for 30 minutes. This is your first 'Druid buff'. You should make it a habit to always have Mark of the Wild cast on yourself, and whenever you group with anyone cast it on them as well. Very friendly Druids cast MotW on folks all the time, because at each higher rank it gains more power, and it is highly beneficial to all classes.

Your Mark of the Wild gives you a bit more armor, but your combat routine remains unchanged. Continue your questing, getting used to maneuvering to extreme casting range, blasting with Wrath and getting used to your mana regeneration rates.

Level Four - Five

Once you reach level 4, things will get a tad more interesting. We're still solidly in baby steps here, but remember - it's all about getting used to the basic techniques that will remain useful throughout your career as a casting Druid.

With level 4, you now have two new spells at your command; the instant cast, ranged damage, Damage over Time (DoT) spell Moonfire, and the instant cast, Healing over Time (HoT) spell Rejuvenation.

Let's start by talking about your new combat spell.

Moonfire has the same range as Wrath, 30 yards, and it costs 25 mana per casting. It is an 'instant cast' spell, able to be cast as rapidly as the global cooldown of actions allows. It has two components; it does a certain amount of damage 'up front', plus additional damage that will trickle out 'over time'.

With Moonfire added to your repertoire, you may feel the temptation to pull with Moonfire as your first action, following up with Wrath until the enemy gets into melee range. I have seen folks do this fairly often, and the reasoning, as I understand it, generally seems to be that this lets you get the greatest use out of the damage over time (DoT) component of the spell.

In my opinion, the problem with using Moonfire first is your Wrath spell takes 1.5 seconds to cast. If you use Moonfire first, then you are sitting there for 1.5 seconds letting the bad guy get right up in your face before your first Wrath goes off. Plus, Wrath takes it's sweet time getting down range. The time that great big ball of energy is in the air is best spent getting your second Wrath started casting.

There is nothing slow about Moonfire; when you activate it, the bad guy knows right now. And starts running towards you in his eagerness to get to know you better.

After you are in melee range, any damage your opponent does to you will prolong your casting times on Wrath. You'll tend to get so frustrated at spell interrupts that you'll be spending more time than you should poking him in the face with your stick. And, generally, this is time spent not having any fun.

The worst cases I have seen are people that never use Wrath at all in the early levels. They start by casting Moonfire, and they keep casting it as fast as they can, until their mana is drained. It's called Moonfire Spamming, and it's bloody embarrassing to watch.

To recap Moonfire; it's an instant cast spell that does some damage immediately, and trickles the rest out over time. Its casting can't be interrupted by taking damage, and it costs a little more to cast than Wrath.

Before we break down our new combat sequence, let's also talk about our new healing spell, Rejuvenation.

Rejuvenation is also instant cast; it cannot be interrupted by damage. Being a Healing over Time spell, the benefit it provides is trickled out slowly over the duration of the spell. So, a very handy spell to use when getting beat on, but not so useful to cast when you are only moments away from death.

Let's integrate Moonfire and Rejuvenation into our combat sequence.

  • Select your target.
  • Move to extreme casting range and unleash Wrath.
  • Keep casting Wrath until your target is right in your face. (Two to three times)
  • Now, with your enemy right in your face, cast your Moonfire once to apply instant damage and get your DoT ticking away, and IF your target is higher level than you, cast your Rejuvenation to begin a trickle of healing rolling on in.
  • As you have been selecting your targets with right-click, you should automatically begin attacking when the bad guy enters melee range. Maintain melee combat.
  • If your Moonfire DoT expires and the enemy is still going strong, recast it. You should have no need to recast Rejuvenation.

With your enemy weakened by Wrath, the combined damage of your Moonfire DoT and your melee damage will make short work of most opponents around your level range.

In fact, you'll probably find that this whole thing seems like overkill, and your targets just fall like rain before you.

That's good, that is exactly the way things should be right now. You're getting used to the basics, and you should be able to manage your encounters so you never have additional bad guys running up on you in the middle of a fight.

Now is the best time to get used to the basics of Wrath, Moonfire and Rejuvenation, because with level 8, the nature of your game will change for the better; level 8 will bring your outdoor crowd control ability, Entangling Roots.

And on that note, I'll see you again next week, where we will delve into the joy that is Entangling Roots, and cover levels 6 through 10.

Until then, have a great week!

Learn the ins and outs of levels 6-10 ->

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