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Shifting Perspectives: Balance druids in patch 4.2, page 2

Tyler Caraway

Movement DPS

Beyond the single-target rotation changes, the most obvious thing this will impact is our movement DPS -- or the mobile DPS that we utilize in PvP, if you will. With the Lunar Shower talent, Moonfire is created to be the center of our mobile DPS. The beauty of this talent and, in essence, Moonfire itself, is that it is so versatile.

For most casters, mobile DPS is rather steady. All mobile abilities have virtually the same amount of DPS per cast at all times; they don't change. Balance druids don't work that way, though; our DPS is always in a constant state of motion. Right now, the only exception to that is with our DoTs. Through using our DoTs, we can equalize our mobile DPS to a rather constant rate, with some ups and downs.

Inside of Eclipse, balance has perhaps the highest mobile DPS of all the casters; yet outside of Eclipse, we have perhaps the lowest mobile DPS. In this way, we have a system that is rather ... harsh, as some would put it; it separates the "good" from the "bad." "Good" balance druids know how to expertly work the Eclipse bar to the point that they are always sitting in Eclipse (preferably a Solar Eclipse) during periods of heavy movement. In many ways, this is an elegant system, yet others could easily view it as unforgiving or poorly constructed. A newer player simply wouldn't have the capacity to know nor understand the ways of gaming Eclipse in such a fashion.

Due to this change, however, remaining in either Eclipse proc for mobile DPS simply isn't possible anymore. With our DoTs pushing the Eclipse bar, we will eventually run out. While it is noble to want to remove the ability for balance druid to sit in a single Eclipse and do nothing but utilize DoTs, you must understand why this method of gameplay exists and why this fix doesn't actively correctly the issue.

To start with, this change does very little to address a balance druid sitting in Eclipse for prolonged periods of time. The best example of mobile DPS where a druid would use this tactic is Atramedes. During the air phase, it isn't uncommon for a druid to sit in Solar and spam Sunfire. At present, it doesn't matter where in Solar you are for this, just that you are in Solar. Now, with the change, it matters that you are at the start of a Solar Eclipse or at least pushing towards Solar.

Either Eclipse proc lasts for 100 energy. Using only DoTs, this means that you have 13 DoT casts until Eclipse is lost. This is all well and good; Eclipse could actually function semi-decently in a system in which DoTs move the Eclipse bar, provided that they always move the Eclipse bar. Right now, Moonfire only moves the bar when you are pushing towards Solar. Sunfire pushes the bar towards Lunar, but as soon as you lose the Eclipse buff, Sunfire is gone and you're back to Moonfire, which won't move the bar at all; only Insect Swarm will.

Balancing the system

Using a mobile rotation, the druid is capable of transitioning from Lunar to Solar as would be expected, but you cannot easily transition from Solar to Lunar -- you would have to switch to spamming Insect Swarm, which is pointless. This is a gaping flaw in the system. The damage of our mobile DPS could be balanced around transitioning between Eclipse procs, and while that would be a very significant nerf to our damage, there are ways to rebalance us to work around that.

We cannot, however, be balanced around a system in which our mobile damage is only capable of pushing us towards one Eclipse, which is what we have now.

While for PvE, rebalancing us around shifting Eclipse while remaining mobile could be balanced, the same cannot be said for PvP. A lot of PvP druids will sit in a Solar Eclipse and use nothing but Sunfire to pelt away at players. While a debatable tactic, it is what it is. We do this because it offers the best DPS while freeing us from interrupts and allowing us to remain on the move -- and movement is our best (and virtually only) defense in PvP.

The problem with having our mobile DPS spells -- our DoTs -- cycle through Eclipse is that far too much of our mobile damage is mitigated by any healer. The direct damage of Moonfire is rather laughable. In a high-end PvP setting, a 7-8k crit would be exceptionally high, but that's because our mobile damage isn't balanced around the direct damage from Moonfire alone; instead, it is balanced around the direct damage, the DoT damage, and the DoT damage from Insect Swarm as well.

Both of the DoT portions, however, can be utterly ignored in organized PvP by a single healer using dispels. Unlike shadow or affliction, we have nothing to prevent our DoTs from being removed, and there is no reason not to remove them. Even elemental has a benefit given to them when Flame Shock is dispelled.

It's fine to argue that our DoT damage during Eclipse is excessively high and therefore should move the Eclipse bar, but to do that and then offer no penalty or reason for those DoTs to not be dispelled is simply abhorrent. This system now causes us to expend Eclipse energy, something that we hold very precious, as Eclipse is our only source of burst damage, and get virtually nothing from it in return.

Why would you ever cast Insect Swarm under Eclipse if there is a healer around? With a single button, your spell did nothing, and you just lost 8 Solar Power. The notion is laughable at best.

The AoE rotation

Last but certainly not least is the glaring impact that this is going to hold on our ability to deal AoE damage. Right now, it's common knowledge that a balance druid pretty much is required to be in a Solar Eclipse in order to AoE effectively. It's true. Inside of a Solar Eclipse, our AoE potential is the best in the game. Virtually no one else can touch us in prolonged AoE damage; fire and demonology have better burst AoE, but they cannot sustain it.

While this is certainly true today, it has become rather obvious that Blizzard is taking many steps to equalize the AoE damage between specs. Shadow, which used to have pathetic AoE, isn't that bad any more; in fact, it's decently strong at AoE now, and feral druids are easily just as good as fire in terms of AoE burst potential. While other specs may not be as high as we are, they certainly aren't nearly as low as they used to be either. Many specs have had their AoE buffed rather significantly to the point that while we may be better overall, they can certainly compete and are more than viable at AoE.

Our AoE rotation hinges primarily upon two spells: Sunfire and Wild Mushroom. With time, we cycle in Insect Swarm as well, but it's those two that do most of the grunt work. Now, however, using Sunfire or Insect Swarm will cause us to lose our Solar Eclipse, which is a massive reduction in the damage of both our DoTs and to Wild Mushroom.

Swept into the Hurricane

Instead of outright spamming all of our DoTs, instead we'll use Wild Mushroom on cooldown, every cooldown, and then cast a total of 12 DoTs, stopping just before a Solar Eclipse ends. At that point, we're pretty much forced into using Hurricane.

This is terrible for a large number of reason. First, Hurricane's damage is excessively poor. It requires four to five targets for Hurricane's damage to merely equal that of a single cast of Sunfire -- and that is only when taking the direct damage into consideration, not the DoT it leaves afterwards. Including the DoT damage, Hurricane simply cannot compete; its damage is far inferior to that of Sunfire and Insect Swarm.

Worse still is the mana cost issue. Hurricane is ridiculously expensive, so much that balance druid literally cannot sustain using it as a general AoE ability. In fact, Hurricane is currently the single most expensive AoE spell in the game.

This point is further driven home by needing to use Wild Mushroom. Using Wild Mushroom on cooldown, every cooldown, is the single best AoE ability that we have. In doing so, however, this only leaves us with approximately 6 seconds in between each cooldown of the spell. Hurricane channels for far longer than 6 seconds.

This means that use both Wild Mushroom and Hurricane -- and there is no reason to not use Wild Mushroom -- you have to cut each Hurricane cast short, leading to more casts per rotation. By doing this, our mana consumption skyrockets to levels that simply aren't sustainable by any means. You can take every mana regeneration talent possible; it won't matter. You simply cannot cast Hurricane that much.

In search of a viable alternative

Blizzard's intention in breaking our current AoE rotation may be very clear, but the problem with that is we have no viable alternative. It becomes better for us to utilize DoTs until the very edge of Eclipse, then stand around casting Starfire while using Wild Mushroom on cooldown instead of actually trying to AoE. Starfire! During a Solar Eclipse! For AoE! That's just absurd, and clearly no more intentional than the current system is. Why then would Blizzard break what we have now just to impose a system that is even more flawed? It makes absolutely no sense.

Yet, that is this change in a nutshell; none of it makes sense. It clearly hasn't been equalized against our rotation to avoid it providing a nerf to our single-target damage. It clearly ruins what is supposed to be our system of mobile DPS and makes two entire talents utterly void, and it worsens the gaming of our AoE rotation, not fixes it.

With so many negative impacts caused by this change, I'm simply having a very difficult time trying to grasp the concept of why. Why is this needed? What purpose does it really serve? How will we be rebalanced to fix the glaring DPS hit that we are going to take as a result? Hopefully, future PTR notes will answer these questions.

Every week, Shifting Perspectives: Balance brings you druidic truth, beauty and insight ... from a moonkin's perspective. We'll help you level your brand new balance druid, tweak your UI and your endgame gear, analyze balance racials and abilities, and even walk you through PvP as a balance druid.

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