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Shifting Perspectives: DoTs, a different direction

Tyler Caraway

Every week, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting druids and those who group with them. Once again we are delving into the world of balance druid DoTs and how they fit within our rotation. How can they be improved? Can Insect Swarm and Moonfire ever really be made interesting and fun?

The novelty of the newly buffed Starfall still has not worn off yet for me. Call me very easy to please, but nothing is more exciting to me than getting Omen of Doom, along with Frostforge Sage, then popping Starfall. Not that I particularly wait for this to happen, but that's usually how every pull starts for me; call it luck. Seeing upwards of 8,000 crits from an ability that I'm used to ignoring is thrilling beyond words that I could write. On the other hand, watching my DoTs tick for less than what my level 40 warlock is capable of hitting is more than slightly distressing.

It's no surprise to the balance community that our DoTs have, once again, become a much more insignificant portion of our rotation. Though still worth casting within the rotation, it saddens me when my tier 10 four-piece bonus actually provides more damage than Moonfire or Insect Swarm over the course of a fight. Really, there's a part of me that just can't wrap my head around the concept. It's gotten so bad, now that I'm no longer running Glyph of Insect Swarm, that I don't want to look at my damage reports any more.

The general consensus is that our DoTs are in a terrible state, and I agree with that. Hell, I don't see how anyone could not agree with that. What to do about it, though? Although it is probably too late to see any real changes before Cataclysm, that doesn't mean we cannot explore the idea of making our DoTs actually worth using again. Perhaps "worth using" is a bad turn of phase, since they are still worth using; "interesting" or "fun to use" would probably be better to say.

The most common suggestions are to make Insect Swarm and Moonfire scale with some combination of haste and crit. While it is a good and understandable theory, it isn't one which I actually agree with. Well, I should clarify. Moonfire and Insect Swarm should definitely be able to crit, as all DoTs in this game should (barring silly things such as Ignite and Deep Wounds -- would a Deep Wounds crit proc Deep Wounds?). Having DoTs be able to crit is merely a standard RNG mechanic that should have existed for everything once the tech was available. It just seems silly to me that certain DoTs don't crit, or that only crit with specific talents. The ability for DoTs to crit should be a base-line mechanic for all DoTs just as it is with any other spell.

DoTs being affected by haste is where I have something of an issue. Don't misunderstand me; DoTs scaling with haste is required for certain specs to be more viable, such as shadow priests and probably even elemental shamans, but it isn't a requirement for every DoT out there. Hasted DoTs is a strange concept -- well, not so much strange as it is complicated. It alters rotations in many good ways and adds a complexity that I enjoy heartily. That being said, DoTs are not the primary focus of balance druids, and I don't think it is the actual damage capacity of Moonfire and Insect Swarms that is holding them back. Although they do lack damage, I would contend that having the two spells account for an approximate total of 20% of our damage is about where they should be. Instead of boosting the sheer damage capabilities of the spells, I think that Improved Insect Swarm is a very large step in the right direction for where balance druid DoTs should go. Damage from the DoTs is so other classes; balance druids should be all about DoT utility.

Step 1: Expanding upon Improved Insect Swarm

Some people may disagree, but I was very excited when I was finally able to get the Improved Insect Swarm talent. Even though it is merely a mirror of the druid tier 5 four-piece bonus, that was always my favorite bonus out of everything we've seen thus far. Not strictly because it was such a powerful bonus, but because it actually made me care about my Moonfire being on the target. Back then, Insect Swarm was virtually never worth casting. Yes, Moonfire was always a DPS increase and thus on the target anyway, but now I had a real reason to make sure it was always present. That's a feeling that balance should have back in its spec. Improved Insect Swarm was really a good step towards this, but it has felt rather flat instead of epic. I'm not advocating that it should be changed to 10%, but 5% is certainly a buff to this talent that would go a long way in making our DoTs matter once again.

Even still, I think there could be an additional talent to make our DoTs matter more in such a way. Although it would be another tier set mirror, having a talent which replicates that current tier 10 four-piece bonus for our DoTs would certainly be an amazing change, in my opinion, that would make me care about my DoTs being on my target. Having a talent that lets Starfire and Wrath cause the target to "bleed" with either arcane or nature damage (depending on which spell was cast) if Moonfire or Insect Swarm were on the target would really make the DoTs viable again. Not only that, but this would be a really good change to make along with a nerf to Nature's Grace. We all know that Nature's Grace needs to be nerfed -- and pretty much will be in the next expansion -- but doing so is going to cause a very significant loss to the value of crit for our spells. Making a change like this would boost the value of crit back up for our main nukes while keeping our DoTs relevant at the same time. It's a win-win in my book.

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