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Shifting Perspectives: Dungeon leveling as balance

Tyler Caraway

Every Friday, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting balance druids and those who group with them. This week we are going back in time once again to visit those pesky little dungeons. Do you have what it takes to make or break a group?

Greetings and salutations once again my fine, feathered friends. No superfluous pomp or wayward attacks on ferals in the opening this week; instead, I want to jump right into the topic at hand. As I've mentioned for a couple of weeks now, I've recently transferred my balance druid to a new server, forsaking all of my alts along with the ride, and because of that, I am in the process of leveling a host of new toons. Although most of them are still back in Azeroth, I've got a few now that are into Outland and Northrend. You see, back in the pre-60 content, I very rarely expect much out of players. They might be new, having never played their class before, and thus still learning all the different ins and outs of how to play. Not to mention, a lot of classes don't always have the best of tools to perform the jobs that they wish to at earlier stages in the game -- just ask me how attempting to tank Ragefire Chasm using a paladin before getting Righteous Fury or Consecration went.

Even still, once you hit The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King content, I gain a certain amount of expectation of what a player should know. Perhaps I am nothing more than an elitist prick, but it is no longer cute nor humorous having to teach a warrior that, yes, they need to be in Defensive Stance and use Thunder Clap in order to tank, or that using AoE spells against one or two targets is highly ineffective, not to mention inefficient, and you would really be better off just sticking to one target at a time in that situation. Don't get me wrong, I rarely tell these people anything -- well, except for the tank thing, because my mage is terrible at doing that -- instead I usually just sigh and get frustrated at my computer screen. The thing that gets me the most, however, is what I see balance druids doing.

Thankfully, I am not at least referring to any of the larger no-nos here; I have only run into one balance druid thus far that was a little too happy to have Typhoon. Rather, I've picked up on a lot of little things that I've see which makes me stop and wonder why. In this case, I know I am just being overly critical of the players since they happen to play the same class/spec as my main, but it becomes very difficult to resist the urge to point out all the little things that they could do to improve themselves. So, for all of you balance druids out there who have randomly found yourself running a dungeon with me, this article is for you.

Don't be a failkin, seriously

I'm sure that there are many of you that might remember this article posted at the beginning of last month. It's a brilliant piece of work, if I do say so myself, and has a lot of great information that if you haven't read yet, you really, really should. I haven't seen far too many offenders of any one of the major points of that post, but there are a few that I would like to highlight once more.

  • You can remove curses and poisons; do it.
  • Don't Typhoon mobs away from the tank and AoE.
  • Watch yourself when using Starfall.
  • Heal when you can.
Those are four points that I simply cannot stress enough. While running through Blood Furnace, I cannot even begin to count the number of times that I've seen a balance druid get hit with Curse of Tongues and just sit there casting through it. Pardon the harsh tone, but why in the world would you do that? You can dispel it, it's lowering your DPS significantly, plus it's annoying as all get out -- so just get rid of the stupid thing. Even more true is when it gets placed on a healer; it scares me beyond belief when a healer is forced to endure longer cast times such as that.

Wantonly using Typhoon and Starfall should both be no-brainers in my opinion, yet I still constantly see players who do so. More than anything else, you really need to be careful when using Typhoon while grouped with a leveling frost mage. More likely than not, a leveling frost mage is going to have Frostbite and at least one point into Improved Blizzard, which means there's a fairly good chance that the mobs you just knocked back are going to end up frozen in place away from the tank; this is bad on so many levels, especially when some of the mobs were already frozen and thus were not knocked back to begin with. Plus, pulling additional packs of mobs with either ability is going to make me (and probably the rest of the group) want to hurt you.

Finally, healing is an essential part of every class that is capable of doing so, especially in early leveling dungeons. Momentarily stopping DPS to toss out a few quick heals saves lives, period. It is more understandable at the earlier levels in the game when you don't have Nourish, although you should be using Regrowth as the initial heal instead, but please, please, please try and do anything that you can to prevent a wipe. Just to illustrate my point, I refer you all to the wonderful new boss Halion in Ruby Sanctum. When transitioning into phase 3, you may find, for whatever reason, that you've ended up back outside with a tank getting his face smashed by a nasty dragon and only a single healer trying to keep him alive. I've been in that situation and can say for a fact that quickly dropping out to toss a few heals on the tank while everything got situated prevented an outright wipe -- and I know I wasn't alone is doing this, either. Healing is not your job, but it shouldn't be completely ignored, either; when you can save someone, you need to.

Speccing it up for dungeon leveling

Talent points, more so while leveling, are such a fickle thing these days. While I abhor the concept of blatantly telling another person how they must spec their character, there is a simple truth behind talents in this game -- that being, certain specs are more apt at performing certain functions than others. Every time that I end up grouped with balance druids, the first thing that I do is inspect their spec; I have to, it's a compulsion. In doing this, I've found some pretty strange things out there. I do my best not to judge in this area, but often times I am simply left wondering why certain players pick the specs that they do. Not in a malicious, they-must-be-idiots kind of way, just through idle curiosity. To that end, I'd like to make a few talent suggestions for anyone out there leveling a balance druid.

Once you hit level 60, a good spec to have would be one that looks something similar to this. The reason that I would suggest picking up a spec such as this is because it offers the most damage and utility that you can get at this stage in the game. A lot of druids find Owlkin Frenzy to be highly useful, and I often see many of them put three points into that talent while putting their other two into Wrath of Cenarius. I can understand why you want to do this; Owlkin Frenzy is a pretty nice talent to have while leveling when you can end up with having a mob or two attacking you. That being said, I simply haven't ever really found this to be that solid of a choice. It is a matter of opinion, honestly; if you like having Owlkin Frenzy and find it useful, then go for it, although I might suggest ditching the points in Celestial Focus instead of Wrath of Cenarius to pick it up.

I don't like trading Owlkin Frenzy in place of Wrath of Cenarius for a rather simple reason -- damage has scaled so much higher at earlier levels to where it simply isn't as useful as it once was, not to mention that the increased levels of spellpower (more so if you use BoA gear) at lower levels makes Wrath of Cenarius that much more useful. I also happen to have a thing against talents that are only situationally useful; there is never a time in which Wrath of Cenarius won't increase your damage, while Owlkin Frenzy will only do so during times that you are being attacked.

Progressing to level 70, I'd then go with a spec similar to this. Although nothing there is really overtly helpful for at the time you get it -- Furor is awesome for increased intellect and Nature's Focus is good for the pushback resistance -- the main focus is to get your hands on Intensity within the next few levels, as you'll probably want to have the mana regeneration by this point. Leveling balance druids have some pretty terrible mana regeneration, mostly because the only real mana regeneration talent that we can pick up within the balance tree is Dreamstate, which is fairly weak (although it is generally a solid choice while leveling since, at least until mid-Outland, most items that you pick up are going to only have stamina, intellect and spellpower on them.) The main issue that we face with mana regeneration is that we're "balance" (albeit poorly in my opinion) around the mana return from Moonkin Form, which is terrible during leveling and lower gearing levels, yet disgustingly overpowered at the higher end of gearing.

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