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Cataclysm Talent Preview: Balance druids

Tyler Caraway

By now, I am sure that you have all read the glorious post about the recently released Cataclysm talent previews. If you haven't, then I don't know what you are waiting for; you better go and check it out now! Like, right now. Go, go! If you have read it or just got back from reading it, then I'm sure your mind is slightly frazzled just a teeny-tiny bit right now. Or maybe it's just me that's like that -- I've had so much coffee that it's hard to tell at this point.

The release of the druid talent trees can only mean one thing -- that's right, that balance druids are so much more awesome than anyone else. I mean, clearly, this validates that. Druids were first on the list, and balance is the first tree of the class, so naturally we're the best. If you follow that logic (and I really don't see how you couldn't), then I'd like to invite you to keep on reading as we dive right on into the new talents: what they mean for balance druids, what's good, what's bad and what's giving me nightmares.

Balance talents

Tier 1

  • Starlight Wrath (5 points) Reduces the cast time of your Wrath and Starfire spells by 0.1/0.2/0.3/0.4/0.5 seconds.

    Nothing new to see here, as the talent remains entirely unchanged. It will still remain one of the core talents that all balance druids must take
  • Genesis (5 points) Increases the damage and healing done by your periodic spell damage, healing effects and Swiftmend by 1/2/3/4/5%.

    Also remains the same as it is now, although it also increases the healing of Swiftmend, which isn't as important to balance druids as it is to restoration. Still remains as a rather bleh talent for balance to take.

Tier 2
  • Moonglow (3 points) Reduces the Mana cost of your Moonfire, Starfire, Starfall, Starsurge, Wrath, Healing Touch, Nourish, Regrowth and Rejuvenation spells by 3/6/9%.

    Just as before; nothing has really happened with Moonglow. Starsurge, one of our new talented spells, has been added to the list, yet beyond that, this talent will probably retain the exact same priority that it enjoys today (which is to say that it's relatively low on the list).
  • Nature's Majesty (2 points) Increases the critical strike chance of your Wrath, Starfire, Starfall, Nourish and Healing Touch spells by 2/4%.

    Wheee, a whole lot of the same! Still a core talent, still a must-have, still rather bland. Bland isn't bad, though. It's a good talent, and I'm glad that it isn't gone.
  • Improved Moonfire (2 points) Increases the direct damage of your Moonfire spell by 5/10%.

    Close to the same as before, but with that extra twist of lemon that ever so slightly makes you pucker your mouth. The increased critical strike chance is gone from the talent, as is the increase to the DoT damage of the spell; only the increase to the initial strike damage remains intact. Confused? You shouldn't be; Blizzard has openly stated that they want balance druids to spam Moonfire any time that they are on the move, so retaining a flat modifier to the spell going to be essential to pulling that off. I'm a touched concerned about DoT scaling, with so many of our DoT-increasing effects being removed; however, the innate ability for DoTs to scale with haste and crit should ensure that everything is a-OK.

Tier 3
  • Solar Beam (1 point) You summon a beam of solar light over the enemy target's location, interrupting the enemy target and silencing all enemy targets under the beam within 10 yards while it is active. Solar Beam lasts for 12 seconds.

    Is it safe to call this spell a balance druid's wet dream? I think it is. An interrupt effect that disorients the target and leaves a pool of silencing nasty on the ground? Where do I sign up for this gig? There is no doubt that Solar Beam should simply be renamed Awesome Beam because that's exactly what this talent is: awesome.
  • Nature's Grace [TBR] (3 points) All non-periodic spell criticals have a 33/66/100% chance to grace you with a Blessing of Nature, increasing your spell casting speed by 20% for 3 seconds.

    Expecting to see something new here? You'd be sorely mistaken if you were, because Nature's Grace as of yet remains completely unchanged, although it is marked as TBR. Nature's Grace has been an object of contention for many balance druids for a very long time now, so not seeing it changed at this point in time may be disheartening to some. Do not be discouraged. Changing Nature's Grace is not an easy task; there are many things that must be taken into consideration in order to do this properly. Blizzard is working on a system that will work out in the end, you can be sure of that.
  • Celestial Focus (3 points) Reduces the pushback suffered from damaging attacks while casting Starfire, Starsurge, Hibernate and Hurricane by 23/46/70%.

    Hmm, I'm sure some people might be upset over losing the haste portion of this talent; fear not, however, because it's merely been baked right into the new mastery system. Since we will naturally be gaining haste from every talent point we spend, there wasn't a need to keep the haste here as well. Pushback resistance alone is going to be worth the talent points, though. On any fight with an aura or other form of raid-wide damage that causes pushback, there simply isn't anything better you could choose to increase your damage.
  • Nature's Reach (2 points) Increases the range of your Balance spells and Faerie Fire (Feral) ability by 10/20%, and reduces the threat generated by your Balance spells by 15/30%.

    No changes here, either. You'll still be taking it, loving it and not making crazy posts that you don't need threat reduction because your tanks are skilled.

Tier 4
  • Nature's Splendor (1 point) Increases the duration of your Moonfire and Rejuvenation spells by 3 seconds, your Regrowth spell by 6 seconds, and your Insect Swarm and Lifebloom spells by 2 seconds.

    Unchanged, yet still oh, so good. We'll be taking it, as will restoration druids, I'm sure. It's been moved farther down the tree, so we'll see how that pans out for our healing brothers and sisters, but I doubt anything would stop them from getting this.
  • Lunar Justice [NYI] (3 points) When you kill a target that yields experience or honor, a ray of moonlight will shine underneath the fallen enemy instantly restoring 2/4/6% of your base mana to you or the first ally who stands underneath it. Lunar Justice lasts for 15 seconds.

    The talent seems interesting, especially from a leveling aspect; not only is it useful for the druid while soloing, but it also functions rather well in a group setting. I would venture to guess that non-mana-using classes cannot proc the effect, much as you cannot cast Innervate on them, but it would mean that we'd find a new hate for paladin tanks. Or perhaps we'll love them as much as they'll come to love us, as we feed them a nice stream of mana. How well this talent plays out at higher levels is a bit of an iffy picture right now. Given that it would probably function the same way that similar effects do, it would require the druid to get the killing blow in order to proc; still, you never know when we might see a huge add encounter where this talent could end up being gold.

Tier 5
  • Brambles (3 points) Damage from your Thorns and Entangling Roots increased by 25/50/75% and damage done by your treants increased by 5/10/15%. In addition, damage from your Treants and attacks done to you while you have Barkskin active have a 5/10/15% chance to daze the target for 3 seconds.

    The talent hasn't changed, for better or worse. Whatever your opinions on it were before, I doubt anything will change them now.
  • Dreamstate (3 points) Regenerate mana equal to 4/7/10% of your intellect every 5 seconds, even while casting.

    Dreamstate will probably hold the same place that it does today, although it is fairly difficult to tell at this point. There is no doubt that basing mana regeneration off of intellect is a better direction to take, and there's that little matter that we cannot gain any mana regeneration from spirit now. Whether this becomes a required talent or not depends on so many other factors that it's hard to say if we'll finally be taking it or not. That being said, I imagine it will end up being how it is in every expansion; we'll take it in the beginning and slowly start to remove points from it as gear power increases.
  • Vengeance (5 points) Increases the critical strike damage bonus of your Starfire, Starfall, Moonfire, and Wrath spells by 20/40/60/80/100%.

    Unchanged, still delicious. It is worth noting, however, that Starsurge isn't listed here. I would venture to guess that this is merely an oversight on Blizzard's part and that it will be added in later on; or it already has been but they haven't updated the tooltip yet.
  • Starsurge (1 point; Requires 1 point in Solar Beam) You fuse the power of the moon and sun, launching a devastating blast of energy at the target. Causes 622 to 691 Spellstorm damage to the target and knocking them down.

    The implications of this ability are staggering. It is our answer to Frostfire Bolt, which can help significantly with the lockout issues that druids of all types face. It also functions as a form of interrupt/CC/peel by having a knockdown effect added onto it. It would seem that Starsurge is mostly likely the previously mentioned spell Nature's Torrent. Although it doesn't have a slow, we'll have to see how this ends up holding out in PvP. In PvE, there could be some slight issues with a rotational ability having such an effect tacked on, but I'm sure there will either be methods around that or we'll learn to adapt to the point that it isn't an issue at all.

Tier 6
  • Gale Winds (2 points) Increases damage done by your Hurricane and Typhoon spells by 15/30%, and increases the range of your Cyclone spells by 2/4 yards.

    It's easier to get to now, but nothing else about the talent has changed. How useful it will end up being with Blizzard's new take on AoE capabilities has yet to be seen. The increased Cyclone range is still great to have though; since we'll have points to spare, then we might want to pick this one up anyway.
  • Balance of Power (2 points) Increases your chance to hit with spells by 2/4% and increases your spell hit rating by an additional amount equal to 50/100% of your Spirit.

    We lose the spell damage reduction from this talent, which makes me sad; however, we do gain a 100% conversion of spirit into hit. That's a pretty nifty deal right there, since the standard increase of 4% hit is still there. Really it is just the answer to our having to share itemization with restoration druids -- which means that as always, we'll be the ones begging to get our tier sets first, more than likely.
  • Lunar Guidance (3 points; Requires 1 point in Starsurge) Increases the radius of your Solar Beam by 2/4/6 yards, and your Starsurge also instantly generates 5/10/15 Lunar or Solar energy, depending on which is greater.

    An interesting change. Instead of increasing our spellpower based on our intellect, which would have been redundant anyway (so we knew this talent would change), the talent instead increases the radius of Solar Beam and the Eclipse, our new mastery, gained from Starsurge. The increased radius is great, really, but we'll have to wait and get more testing in on the Eclipse effect before we can make a solid stance on it.

Tier 7
  • Moonkin Form (1 point) Shapeshift into Moonkin Form. While in this form the armor contribution from items is increased by 120%, and increases the spell critical strike chance of all nearby friendly and raid targets within 100 yards by 5%. The moonkin cannot cast healing or resurrection spells while shapeshifted. The act of shapeshifting frees the caster of Polymorph and movement impairing effects.

    I'm looking for the right phrase to use to describe Moonkin Form; I think "gutted" is the proper word to use here. The armor increase has gone from 370% to a measly 120%. I am hoping that this is merely due to some kind of rebalancing that Blizzard is doing to armor values in general and that our overall damage reduction remains relatively unchanged, but there's really no way of knowing at this point. We also end up losing out on our damage reduction while stunned, which could really hurt us. Moonkin Form was the only defense that balance druids have, so this is a major blow to our survivability; hopefully Blizzard has taken this into consideration. The mana return from critical strikes is gone as well. The only thing that hasn't been changed is the 5% increase to critical strike chance.
  • Improved Moonkin Form (3 points; Requires 1 point in Moonkin Form) You also grant 2/3/5% spell haste to all nearby friendly party and raid targets within 100 yards while in Moonkin Form.

    Changed to 6% haste increase (but from previous posts we already knew this was happening and that it will share the same buff slot as Wrath of Air Totem).
  • Euphoria (2 points) When you critically hit with Wrath or Starfire, you instantly gain an additional 2/4 Lunar or 4/8 Solar Energy. When you reach a Solar or Lunar eclipse, you instantly are restored 6/12% of your total mana.

    Predominately, this talent seems to be focused on mana regeneration. At first, it may be an odd mismatch of a useful ability, with a bleh mana perk strapped along for the ride, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if that's exactly what it is. Balance druids need an additional source of mana, yet with Moonglow and Dreamstate already in the tree, it would be a hard sell to force us to spend more talent points on nothing but raw regeneration. It's a viable, if inelegant, solution.
Tier 8
  • Owlkin Frenzy (3 points; Requires 1 point in Moonkin Form) Attacks done to you while in Moonkin form have a 5/10/15% chance to cause you to go into a Frenzy, increasing your damage by 10% and making you immune to pushback while casting Balance spells. Lasts 10 seconds.

    There aren't really any major changes to how Owlkin Frenzy functions; the additional mana regeneration from the talent has been dropped, but that might not be so terrible. The mana portion was weak to begin with and hopefully this means that Blizzard has found a better solution.
  • Wrath of Cenarius [NYI] (3 points) While moving, the direct damage of your Moonfire spell is increased by 5% and its mana cost is reduced by 10% for 3 seconds. This effect can stack up to 3 times and lasts 3 seconds, but is refreshed as long as you are in movement

    If the change to this talent made your jaw strike the ground, I'll allow you a moment to pick it back up. Good? Good. Now, instead of increasing our damage from Wrath and Starfire, the talent now increases the damage of Moonfire, as well as reducing the mana cost, while on the move. Again, this is merely to push to make Moonfire the spell that we repeatedly cast while on the move in order to maintain a semblance of DPS; gogo Moonfire spam!

Tier 9
  • Improved Eclipse [NYI] (3 points) Increases the amount of Lunar or Solar energy generated from your Starfire and Wrath by 12%, and when critically hit by a melee or ranged attack, you will instantly generate Lunar or Solar Energy.

    Merely a replacement for plain, old, boring Eclipse in this tier. This talent is ... confusing, to say the least. The first and second parts are fairly clear-cut; the additional Eclipse generation on Wrath and Starfire are there to merely replicate the current slot of Eclipse to an extent, while the added bonus of gaining Eclipse power while under fire is clearly there to push home the point that you really don't want to be attacking that Moonkin (you're just makin' him charge his laser). The last bit is what I do not understand in the least. Clearly some of the numbers are garbled up, which means this may just be something that Blizzard meant to remove and forgot to. Honestly, that makes the most sense at this point. The last effect is merely the same as the current Eclipse we have now, yet we know that is being removed completely and folded into our mastery. I would venture to guess this is just an oops on Blizzard's part -- though I fear for us all if I'm wrong.
  • Typhoon (1 point; Requires 1 point in Moonkin Form) You summon a violent Typhoon that does 400 Nature damage when in contact with hostile targets, knocking them back and dazing them for 6 seconds.

    No change, well, that's not true. The talent itself has not been changed, however it is now a requirement for picking up Starfall which pretty much means you will be getting Typhoon whether you wanted to or not.
  • Force of Nature (1 point) Summons 3 treants to attack enemy targets for 30seconds.

    No change here either.

Tier 10
  • Earth and Moon (3 points) Your Wrath and Starfire spells have a 100% chance to apply the Earth and Moon effect, which increases spell damage taken by 2/5/8% for 12 seconds. Also increases your spell damage by 2/4/6%.

    The sexiness that is Earth and Moon remains well seated within this tier. You may notice that nothing has really changed about the talent save for that the damage increase from the debuff has been lowered from 13% to 8%. Such a change is understandable to a degree. Blizzard does not want debuffs to make up such a huge contribution of damage that it currently does, and there is no denying that having a 13% magical damage increase buff is quite a factor in that. The loss of 5% from the debuff is similar to raid buff reductions elsewhere. Blizzard is trying to reduce the reliance on these effects, which will help 10-man raiding be taken seriously and be well balanced.
  • Fungal Growth [NYI] (2 points) When your Treants die or your Wild Mushrooms are triggered, you spawn a Fungal Growth at its wake covering the area within 8 yards, slowing all enemy targets by 35/70%. Lasts 10 seconds.

    A new talent that we've actually known about for a while, yet that doesn't stop it from being oh so good. Having a snare attached to Force of Nature and Wild Mushroom is a huge asset in PvP and potentially PvE as well. Snares find plenty of use in the PvE side of the game -- just look at Saurfang for proof -- so I wouldn't doubt that we find many balance druids picking this up.

Tier 11
  • Starfall (1 point; Requires 1 point in Typhoon) You summon a flurry of stars from the sky on all targets within 30 yards of the caster, each dealing 303 to 348 Arcane damage. Maximum 20 stars. Lasts 10 seconds. Shapeshifting into animal form or mounting cancels the effect. Any effect which causes you to lose control of your character will suppress the starfall effect.

    Nothing has really changed about this spell. The base damage has been reduced significantly, but who didn't see that coming? Starfall hits like a truck, although I don't believe all of the forum complaints that we're seeing about the spell now. There's no doubting that the spell is highly valuable. Reducing the base damage is an excellent trade-off in rebalancing the damage output of Starfall. Previously, Starfall was terrible as a spell not because the base damage was low, but due to the terrible scaling that it had. Blizzard went a touch overboard and increased both, when all we really needed was the increase in spellpower scaling. Now that we have that, reducing the base damage is cool by me.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From goblins and worgens to mastery and guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.

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