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Cataclysm beta: Balance druid build 12984

Tyler Caraway

There is a new beta build of sorts out there that certainly has the World of Warcraft community all aflutter, and for good reason. Although the build is not yet implemented on the beta servers, MMO-Champion has released loads of new information related to the next build that contains loads of new treats for all classes, particularly balance druids. There's been no doubt over the last few weeks that balance has been in something of a poor state, with several glaring flaws floating about that players in beta and testing on the PTR have pointed out. Blizzard has been listening to those comments, and the newest build reflects that.

Let me reiterate once again that this build is not yet implemented on the beta servers; it is merely datamined information. While it's certainly accurate and reliable information, it does not mean that everything listed will be changed as listed or that all changes are currently listed. Certain game mechanics could still be changed without being listed, and things that are listed may be reverted before being released. With all of the rhetoric out of the way, let's get on with the show, shall we?

Talent and spell changes

  • Wild Mushroom now becomes visible after 6 seconds, up from 4. Base damage increased by 400% (now deals 1,300 - 1,573 damage).
  • Wild Mushroom: Detonate no longer costs mana, now has a 10-second cooldown, and affects targets in 10 yards.
  • Starsurge now generates 15 Solar or Lunar Energy, up from 10.
  • Euphoria has been revamped -- While not in an Eclipse state, you have a 12/24% chance to double the Solar or Lunar Energy gained from Wrath or Starfire when they deal damage. Previously caused Wrath to generate 2/4 and Starfire to generate 4/8 additional Solar or Lunar Energy on critical strike.
  • Earth and Moon now increases spell damage taken by 8%, down from 12%.
  • Lunar Guidance has been removed.
  • Genesis no longer increases the damage of periodic damage spells; instead, it increases the duration of Insect Swarm and Moonfire by 2/4/6 seconds.
  • Nature's Grace renamed to Nature's Torment. Effect changed -- you gain 5/10/15% spell haste after casting Insect Swarm or Moonfire, lasts 15 seconds. This effects has a 1-minute cooldown. When you gain Solar or Lunar Eclipse, the cooldown of Nature's Torment is instantly refreshed.
  • Dreamstate added. When you cast Innervate on yourself, you regenerate an additional 15/30% of your maximum mana over its duration.
  • Sunfire added. While in Solar Eclipse, your Moonfire spell morphs into Sunfire -- Burns the enemy for 196.24 to 239.85 Nature damage then an additional 374.92 Nature damage over 12 seconds.
  • Shooting Stars added. You have a 2/4% chance when your Moonfire or Insect Swarm deal damage to instantly reset the cooldown on Starsurge and reduce the cast time by 100%. Lasts 8 seconds.
  • Overgrowth added. Your Entangling Roots and Nature's Grasp have a 50/100% chance to also root all enemies within 8 yards of the target.

The good

There are plenty of things to feel pumped about in this patch. First and foremost is Euphoria. Euphoria has been a highly questionable talent since its inception, given that it has been entirely neutral in respect to doing anything beyond refunding mana. The additional Eclipse generation from the talent used to not actually result in any increase in Eclipse uptime. With this change, the effects of Euphoria are purely positive, given that it can only increase the speed at which you reach the next Eclipse proc, and it can never shorten the duration of a current proc. By how much it does this has yet to be tested, given that the patch isn't live yet, and while it won't be a highly significant increase in Eclipse uptime by initial theorycrafting, it will at least result in an increase in uptime and help to add a slightly bit of RNG into our rotation. Eclipse will never truly be random under the new system, but that is all right; this way, at least, we do have some RNG that doesn't have any negative aspect attached to it.

The change to Nature's Grace, or Nature's Torment, is really amazing as well, finally adding back in some flavor to the talent. For balance druids, I would expect the uptime on the effect to be decently high, but the most important part of the talent is how well the system can be played. The buff lasts for 15 seconds, and generally it should take slightly less time than that in order to proc either Eclipse effect, which in turn resets the cooldown on reapplying the buff. Given this, you wouldn't want to instantly refresh Insect Swarm or Moonfire. Instead, you would want to wait until just before the buff expires in order to have it last as long as possible -- hopefully, close to the next Eclipse proc. Depending upon how haste scales, it's theoretically possible to reach a point at which Nature's Torment does have a 100 percent uptime -- this should easily be possible during Heroism/Bloodlust.

Although this is about balance druids, I think it is worth mentioning how awesome this change is for restoration druids as well. With the previous way in which Nature's Grace functioned, it was only really useful during times when a druid was chain-casting spells that can crit -- something that restoration druids don't find themselves doing all too often. Nature's Torment effectively gives restoration druids a powerful haste cooldown they can use whenever they feel they need to in order to dramatically increase their healing output. All in all, I'd call the Nature's Torment change a win-win for both parties involved.

Finally, we have Sunfire and Shooting Stars, both of which are interesting new additions to our toolkit. Sunfire was clearly changed due to complaints that our on-the-move spell, Moonfire, was only being increased during periods of a Lunar Eclipse, which unbalanced our movement damage rather heavily. With this change, our movement damage is more balanced between both Eclipse procs. It isn't yet known whether the Sunfire debuff overwrites the Moonfire debuff or how effects which specifically benefit Moonfire also benefit Sunfire (such as glyphs, Genesis and Nature's Torment), but the possibilities are certainly endless. Now with Shooting Stars, the talent is an interesting method to adding in a new additional proc for balance druids that's sort of like our Brain Freeze. Balance druids have been asking for a long time to have better interaction with their DoTs and to have something more to watch for other than Eclipse. This is the answer to that.

The bad

Not everything is double rainbows in balance land. There are still several key issues that have not yet been addressed or are still questionable at this point. The first two are the key issues that the balance community has been adamant about for quite a long time now: the problems with Eclipse generation during solo play and PvP, as well as mana regeneration during these times. Although Dreamstate certainly increases our mana regeneration, it really isn't of much help for these situations if the druid OOMs in under 3 minutes, which we certainly do at this time. Additional mana back from Innervate is certainly a great thing, but it really only helps during prolonged boss encounters, for which there haven't been reports about mana issues at this time. Further, tying more of our mana regeneration to Innervate is highly dangerous for PvP, given that Innervate can be dispelled.

The issue of Eclipse generation also has not been addressed in this beta patch. In solo and leveling play, the problem has always been that Eclipse decays way too rapidly outside of combat, making it excessively difficult to proc or make use of in these situations. There is really nothing noted in the patch notes to address this (although it is possible that the data mining could simply have not picked up on the change). In PvP, the problem has been that druids have to spend too much of their time casting spells other than Starfire and Wrath for Eclipse to be viable, which still remains true. Balance PvP is more and more becoming about control, while it is only our primary nukes that can generate Eclipse. Further, it is rather difficult in many PvP situations to chain-cast Starfire with enough frequency in order to either make use of a Lunar proc or to get a Solar proc. Allowing for Owlkin Frenzy to influence Eclipse in some way would be a great solution to balance's PvP issues with the effect.

Once again, we'll end on the note of Sunfire and Shooting Stars. Although Sunfire is beyond awesome and certainly a welcome change, it does clearly increase the value of a Solar Eclipse proc far beyond that of a Lunar Eclipse proc. With this change, a Solar Eclipse now boosts the damage of Insect Swarm and Moonfire, while a Lunar Eclipse only boosts the damage of Moonfire -- meaning that a Solar Eclipse is worth far more damage than a Lunar Eclipse. If that is a problem or not, I cannot rightfully say, but it is a matter which should be noted.

Last but certainly not least is the viability of the proc from Shooting Stars. There are really two different sides to this coin. In PvP, there are virtually no drawbacks to this talent. Starsurge is a great control tool and does amazing damage; having it be instant is fantastic. It is the PvE benefit that is more questionable. In PvE, Starsurge is used more to extend the duration of Eclipse by feeding Solar or Lunar Energy back into the system; it isn't a spell that we use on cooldown every cooldown. Given that, the proc can be wasted, depending on when it occurs. Getting an additional Starsurge when using it would be mean not having it for your next Eclipse proc; that's rather questionable, so there are certainly going to be times when a PvE druid won't be able to make use of the proc. In all honesty, that isn't a terrible mechanic in of itself -- knowing when to use all of your tools and procs correctly is essential to maximizing DPS -- but it does lower the value of the talent. More testing is needed before anything certain can be said about Shooting Stars, but it still worth mentioning what drawbacks may exist now.

The Ugly

Moonkin Form is still fat and doesn't have an updated model. Why must you torture us Blizzard, why!?!

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it; nothing will be the same! In WoW Insider's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion, from brand new races to revamped quests and zones. Visit our Cataclysm news category for the most recent posts having to do with the Cataclysm expansion.

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