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Shifting Perspectives: Balance 101 - A PvP primer

Tyler Caraway

Every week, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting druids and those who group with them
. This week, we are taking a giant leap into the black hole that has come to be known as balance druid PvP. Brace yourselves, my feathery friends, the ride is about to get bumpy.

I don't have a silly introduction this week. Instead, I have my serious hat on. Before I begin to write this, I want to say a few things about myself. I am no longer an avid balance PvP player. I do PvP on my balance druid, but only in BGs and no longer in Arena. I did do Arenas in The Burning Crusade, where I ranked rather high in a 2v2 with a rogue, but I understand that experience is no longer relevant to today's Arena. I did not give up on balance PvP because I feel it is too hard, I didn't give up on balance PvP because I feel it is broken, I quit playing balance in Arenas because it requires a lot more time investment than I am able to give it in order to succeed properly. I raid pretty much six days a week, not just on my druid but also on several alts, so I haven't the time to properly give to balance PvP, and if I can't do something fully then I don't do it.

I have not been blind to the state of balance PvP though. I follow every single higher rated balance player, and I follow the vocal PvP players as well. I do play Arenas off and on with one of my alts, and I have played against balance druids. Sometimes I beat them, sometimes I lose. For all of its shortcomings, balance PvP is viable, but if you have any interest in balance PvP then you need to be prepared for what is ahead. It is going to be hard. You are going to struggle. There are going to be times where you want to throw your computer off a cliff and scream until your face goes red. For all of that, if you really put forth the effort, if you focus, and learn how to adapt, then you can succeed.

Similar to last week's balance 101 article, this is going to be an introduction to balance PvP. I'll examine talents, team comps, strategies, and gearing,. This isn't the end all, be all of how to do balance PvP. There are lots of options, lots of things you can try or experiment with. PvP in and of itself is a very large experiment where you can test what can and cannot work. This may gloss over some topics, but I will try to provide as much information as I can. If you feel that there is anything of glaring importance that I missed, then leave a comment on the issue and I will correct it as soon as I am able to.

1. What is balance PvP?

The balance spec is the druid's caster DPS tree. In PvP, the tree focuses on dealing damage, some control, and occasional healing.

2. Advantages of balance PvP

  • Able to put out high levels of pressure if given the opportunity to free cast.
  • Very solid levels of control against various targets, though more so against melee.
  • A solid number of debuffs to act as a form of dispel protection.
  • Solid synergy with multiple casters.
3. Disadvantages if balance PvP
  • Survivability is difficult to achieve.
  • Heavy reliance on teammates for essential PvP functions such as peels.
  • Lack of real interrupt or silence ability.
  • Dealing with a social stigma against the poor state of balance PvP.
4. Gearing yourself for success.

Balance PvP is a very different animal than a majority of other PvP casters. First and foremost, we'll look at the two 'caps' that all PvP players need to be aware of. The first of which is the hit cap. Against a player of equal level, all players have a 4% chance to miss. This means that Balance of Power will solve a majority of your hit needs in PvP. A few specs will have talents which reduce their chance to be hit by spells, such as a retribution paladin. In most cases, this is around an additional 4% chance, which would mean you would need to gear for an additional 4% hit. Getting this hit is not extremely important for two reasons: not many classes have these talents, and the RNG factor is generally rather low. Still, it is something to be aware of.

The second cap is for spell penetration. Usually, spell penetration is a useless stat because NPC mobs have certain resistances that cannot be mitigated, players, however, do not have this. Certain classes have buffs which increase their spell resistances, notably being druids, paladins, priests, shaman, hunters, and mages. Balance druids are a bit more lucky than other casting classes as there are not too many classes with nature or arcane resistance. Only druids, shaman, hunters, and mages are able to have any resistance against our spells. Mages are able to achieve the highest level of resistance with a value of 140, although this is mostly only arcane mages, most frost mages are going to be a bit lower than that. At a very minimum, you will need to gear for 72 spell penetration in order to negate Mark of the Wild. Getting to the full 140 is a good choice to be 'safe' with, but so long as you at least have 72 you should be fine. Shaman and hunters can can reach to 120 nature resistance, however very few will do so since it means giving up a better totem for the shaman, or a better aspect for the hunter.

Now, how to make sure you are going to live? In short, stack stamina. Balance druids lack the defensive capabilities of other casters. We have decent armor, but very little mitigation talents or abilities. There is Barkskin, but little beyond that which we can use in order to reduce our incoming damage. Often times, shifting to travel form in order to run away is not a good choice to make. We give up a lot by shifting. Get as much stamina as you possibly can, stack it in every single slot possible. It is from here that you'll actually want to get a few PvE items. For 'standard' gear, you will want to use all PvP items because balance cannot give up any resilience, however for rings and trinkets you can use some PvE items.

Most notable of these are going be ones that are difficult to get your hands on. Satrina's Impeding Scarab, Sindragosa's Flawless Fang, and Corroded Skeleton Key are some of the best trinkets you can get. Out of all of those, the Skeleton Key is probably going to be the one you can get with the least amount of fuss, although it will cost you some Emblems of Frost to get. Keep in mind you also want to use your Medallion of the Horde/Alliance. When it comes to rings, you will want to use Wrathful Gladiator's Band of Dominance and then Ashen Band of Endless Destruction due to the proc.

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