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Shifting Perspectives: Dungeon diving in 4.0.3 and beyond

Tyler Caraway

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat , bear , restoration and balance druids. This week we are going in the darkest, smelliest, most fantastical places around Azeroth in search of epic loot, epic encounters, and hopefully being able to come out alive by more than the skin of our teeth.

It seems that my fellow Shifting Perspectives cohort Allison Robert miffed a few people in her latest installment in regards to druidic lore, so I'm going to add a bit of clarification -- because I'm that much of a nice guy. The tauren were not the first druids; the night elves were the first druids. In fact, the first druids were clearly the blood elves -- who captured the Naaru Elune, sapped her nature-ness and used her holy powers to create a race of super-druids that then spread chaos across Azeroth. Their destruction was so terrible that they were banished to Outland, where they constructed Botanica, an interdimensional spaceship, in an effort to grow their own world tree and conquer the universe as we know it. This conquest was only thwarted by Rhonin going back in time to slay the blood elf druid leader, High Botanist Freywinn, before their project could be completed, leaving the blood elf druids stranded in Botanica until wayward adventurers butchered them all as they made their way toward Kael'thas Sunstrider.

And now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

Now that we all have our facts straight, I want to get down to the business of talking about dungeon diving as it will be in Cataclysm. It's common knowledge by now that future dungeons are nothing akin to what we have seen in Wrath; mobs hit really flippin' hard, so hard that tanking an entire pack solo is entirely out of the question. Using CC is a requirement of the new dungeons, and it's not the only change that players need to be prepared for. Focusing on the tank's target, avoiding incoming damage, and possibly even healing yourself in times of trouble also need to be considered. Dungeons, particularly the heroics, can be very dangerous, and you should be as prepared for them as you possibly can.

Learning the basics

Crowd control is important, and it is going to be the focus of many players now as they relearn the skills that they might have lost during the time that Wrath has been out, when CC didn't matter at all. CC in of itself is a fairly simple task; yes, there are some people who are better at it than others (just as with everything else in the game), but it's all a matter of execution. Everyone already knows how to put Entangling Roots or Hibernate on their bars and press the button to cast it; that isn't difficult. But there are better, more effective ways to use CC.

  • Focus -- as in, use the focus function. Set your CC target as your focus, and set up your UI so that your focus target is displayed clearly and is distinguishable from the rest of your target bars. This allows you to keep better tabs on your target so you don't have to switch back and forth to track in order to know how much time is left on your CC or whether or not the mob is even CCed. You can also make a keybind to instantly set something as your focus, and I strongly suggest doing this if you aren't making use of the tactic already.
  • Refresh your CC early. If your target is going to be one the last killed, then don't wait for the last second to recast whatever CC you are using; instead, try to refresh it when you get a chance, such as when you are switching targets. This prevents mobs from accidentally getting free for even a second, which could be all it takes for a mob to kill someone or some another player to over-react to a "free" mob and hit it with a DoT effect that will ruin your CC attempts.
  • Communication is important! People like to rush through dungeons; not everyone has a lot of play time, and we all like to get things done as quickly as we possibly can. That is all fine and dandy, but wiping due to communication errors takes far longer than setting up proper CC markers. It's so easy to do that there's no excuse not to. At the start of a run, simply assign each CCer in your group a specific raid marker -- it literally takes 2 seconds before a pull to throw up a couple of markers so players know who is going to be CCing what and what needs to be killed first.

Macros make your life easier

If you are a newer player (or perhaps even an older one), you might not have put much effort into creating macros. I know that I personally never had many CC macros for my druid until recently -- and I'm still making new ones every day. Macros are amazing tools that can be used to do virtually anything you want. For CCing, the most basic macro that you may want to invest in is something like this:
/cast Entangling Roots
As far as macros go, this is the most basic, but it gets the job done very effectively, with every line doing exactly what it says. Using it will immediately cancel any other spell you may be casting, target whatever you have set as your focus target, cast Entangling Roots (you can also change this to Hibernate if you wish to cast that spell), and then return you to your last target. There are multiple ways you can write the exact same macro for the exact same effect, but this one works and is simple enough.

Now, there's a different alternative to the previous macro that you can use for CCing, which is to create a mouseover macro. Mouseover macros are brilliant little buggers that don't require you to actually target anything in the traditional sense. Instead, they are cast on the creature that your mouse is currently over -- the actual model itself, the nameplate, or even your focus target box. A mouseover macro for Entangling Roots would look like this:
/cast [target=mouseover, harm] Entangling Roots
That's it! With this, the game will check the target your mouse is currently over, and if it is hostile, it will cast Entangling Roots on it. The best thing is that your actual target will never change, so you don't have to fumble around with trying to retarget the mob you were attempting to kill before rooting a different mob.

Thorns is another excellent spell that can be attached to a mouseover macro for quick use on a tank during battle. Just replace the harm qualifier with help and then change the spell. (You can do this for any of your beneficial spells, in fact.)

Last but not least, I would also like to highlight an addon that is extremely valuable in so many ways. CCWarn is fantastic in that it does exactly what it says it does: It warns others that they are about to break your CC. Everyone makes mistakes, especially in frantic fights -- and yes, it can be that quick little whisper from this addon that prevents someone from breaking one of your CCs. The same effect of this addon can be done via a macro as well, but it is a bit too long/complex to list out here. It's safer and easier to merely use the addon.

Keeping up with the tanks

Balance druids are one of the odd animals of this expansion, at least in terms of our mastery. Eclipse isn't fully passive, such as Enhanced Elements is for enhancement shaman, and as such, we aren't balanced around having a 100 percent uptime on Eclipse. Yet there are going to be plenty of occasions when you'll find yourself starting a pull off with an Eclipse buff up, which is going to significantly increase your initial damage output.

Always be aware of the damage that you are going to be able to put out before you start casting, and always make sure that your tank has enough threat before your start to unload your damaging spells. Another key thing to remember is that DoTs only dynamically shift in respect to haste and crit, not raw damage modifiers -- and your DoTs can very well hurt.

Although it's an outdated encounter, General Vezex in Ulduar is a perfect example of why this is important to take note of. If you happen to get dangerously close to pulling off of your tank on this encounter and stop casting, then you also need to get out of the Shadow Crash; simply not casting additional spells isn't enough. By staying in the Shadow Crash, the DoTs are still gaining the haste buff, and their damage alone is going to be enough to out-threat a tank. However, moving out removes the haste effect from the DoTs almost instantly. Hodir functions the same way with the Lunar Beams. Be on the lookout for any similar effects in Cataclysm and keep them in mind not only for threat issues, but also for increasing your damage; even if you cannot directly cast, keeping those buffs applied keeps your DoTs buffed.

No matter what the encounter design, the most important factor is to always be aware of your threat and never, ever pull off of your tank.

Being a restokin?

That nonrestoration healing has been drastically reduced in comparison to what it once was is a understatement. Regardless of the class that you play, if you are not specced for healing, then your healing spells pretty much suck. Specialization and talents account for such a large portion of raw healing output that DPS-focused hybrids cannot even dream of being consider viable off healers for anything serious. Once you reach even the Northrend level of dungeons, you are going to struggle just to keep a tank alive during a standard pull, let alone against a real boss mob; in Cataclysm dungeons ... forget about it.

This doesn't mean that your healing spells are completely worthless and that you should forget about them completely. It's a long cooldown, but Tranquility can prevent a wipe if things start to go south at any point. Further, Lifebloom is a rather powerful heal even without all the bells and whistle to support it. If group damage is very high and your healer is having trouble keeping everyone alive, then consider taking the time to throw a Lifebloom or two on yourself; it's limited to a single target at a time, so unfortunately, you cannot spread the love around. No one cares about your damage output if you're dead, and using your healing spells is one of the best tools that we have in keep ourselves alive. Never be afraid to use them if you feel the need.

Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of druidic truth, beauty and insight. Whether you're a bear, cat, moonkin, tree or stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny, from a look at the disappearance of the bear tank to thoughts on why you should be playing the class (or why not).

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