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Wrath Beta patch notes: Balance Druids

Amanda Miller

Now that the Wrath of the Lich King Beta is live, and the patch notes are up, we have some solid information on Druid talents as they're being tested. Here is what the patch revealed:

Balance tree
If you were to invest three points into your Brambles tier three talent, you will not only have the current 75% boost to damage caused by Thorns and Entangling Roots, but your Treants will have their damage boosted by 15%.

In addition, all damage caused by Treants, and any attacks done to you while Barkskin is active, have a 15% chance of dazing the target for three seconds. Actually, Force of Nature, which summons your Treants, is having its cooldown reduced from three minutes to two.

This will be a nifty talent for Moonkin in battlegrounds and arena, although it won't be enough to convert all of those Restoration druids to the ways of the Giant Chicken.

Balance is also getting a boost to their AoE abilities, with three (two new) options.
Currently, Hurricane is the only AoE spell for druids, and when used with Barkskin, this channeled spell won't be interrupted. Also, the damage reduction works nicely with Hurricane's effect on attack speed (25% penalty).

According to the Beta notes, Hurricane will not only lose its one minute cooldown, but when Gale Winds is talented, its damage will be boosted by 25/50%.

Typhoon, a new tier nine spell that lets you instantly summon a Typhoon that does 400 nature damage when it comes into contact with enemies (presumably, your Typhoon wanders), and knocks them back five yards.

This should be valuable in PvP, especially in crowded situations, or even arena should you enter your Moonkin in battle. It would also be a good incidental spell interrupt, and another opportunity for you to shift forms and run. It even sports a meager 20 second cooldown. Typhoon, because of its wandering nature, will likely not see much use in dungeons.

It will also be buffed if you talent Gale Winds, increasing the damage done by 25/50%.

The new top tier talent, Starfall, is a new AoE that resembles a paladin's Consecration. It allows you to summon a rain of stars from the sky that will deal 111-129 arcane damage to all targets within 30 yards. In addition, Any targets within melee range (5 yards) will take an additional 20 arcane damage. The effect lasts ten seconds, and is an instant cast with a three minute cooldown.

The one catch is that you may only summon twenty stars, and word on the Beta forums is that its effectiveness is inversely proportional to the number of monsters. In this way, with its current damage output (nerfed from the Alpha), it may be more supplemental than a stand-alone strong AoE attack.

Talented, this ability stands to see quite a bit of improvement. Celestial Focus would give this AoE attack a 5/10/15% chance to stun the target(s?) for three seconds. Focused Starlight, a tier two talent, will increase its critical strike chance by 2/4%.

If you talent Vengeance, the critical strike damage bonus will jump up 20/40/60/80/100% of the 50% untalented critical strike damage bonus. In effect, this means that your critical strikes actually double the base damage, rather than increasing it 1.5 times.

Finally, should you talent Moonglow, you can reduce the 655 mana cost by 3/6/9%.

Because Hurricane will lack a cooldown, and Typhoon's is a mere 20 seconds, you should be able to start up a nice rotation of the three, should the situation (and your mana pool) warrant.

Moonkin form and mana regeneration
The mechanics of Moonkin Form are also being altered. Currently, a Moonkin can start bonking its target in order to regenerate mana equal to 30% of your attack power, which is boosted slightly by Moonkin form as well.

In Wrath, this AP boost is being dropped, and you will no longer be bonking things over the head with a feral weapon in order to regenerate some mana. Instead, your regeneration will be passive, and determined by your critical strike chance. When you crit, you have a chance to gain 2% of your total mana. Because Moonkin already stack some spell crit, this will be a nice bonus effect. Plus, you won't have to change your playstyle to make use of it.

Actually, you should theoretically regen more mana this way than with the current system, considering that most druids have a healthy mana pool. Of course, it will also depend on how high your critical strike rating is, and how often the effect procs.

Threat reduction
Currently, Boomkin generate quite a bit of threat, with their aura, high damage output and large crits. In order to reduce their threat, you need to invest 15 points into the Restoration talent tree in order to get Subtlety, 4/8/12/16/20% reduction to threat generated by all types of spells, although with the expansion this will only affect Restoration spells.

The patch notes indicate that Nature's Reach will, in addition to what it does now, reduce threat generated by Balance spells by 15/30%. Considering this is a 10% boost, is located on tier three, consumes only two talent points, and helps you to reach further into your main tree, this is definitely a pretty useful buff for PvE.

Casting time
Nature's Grace is a talent that activates upon a critical strike, and currently wipes 0.5 seconds off of the cast time of the druid's next spell. Wrath, which has a 1.5 second casting time, cannot take advantage of this because it is limited by the global cooldown of 1.5 seconds, which slows crit chaining.

According to the patch notes, this talent will soon reduce the global cooldown of your Wrath spell by 50% when activated, allowing you to cast the spell 33% quicker after a critical hit. Because it is such a quick spell, this will be useful for PvP and PvE.

The only current nerf to the Balance tree seems to be a reduction in the efficacy of Lunar Guidance. Instead of buffing your healing and spell damage by 25% of your total intellect when fully talented, you will receive a maximum of 12% instead.

Entangling Roots and Improved Faerie Fire
As promised, Entangling Roots will be usable indoors, which will mean that usage will no longer be limited to the handful of outdoor dungeons, and can be used in the flag room in Warsong Gulch. Accordingly, Nature's Grasp and Improved Nature's Grasp, which buff roots, will now also activate when indoors.

Talenting Improved Faerie Fire currently increases the chances that the target will be hit by melee and ranged attacks, which is great for raiding. Come the expansion, this will also work for spells.

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