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Shifting Perspectives: A look at leveling Balance

Every Tuesday, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting druids and those who group with them. This week John Patricelli, sometimes known as the Big Bear Butt Blogger, brings up the terrifying (to him) topic of the Balance and Restoration Talent trees.

Hello again!

Last week, I talked about the Talent spec I recommend most for leveling Feral from 10 to 70.

I wanted to get that information out there, so that those of you that have already started Druids wouldn't have to wait each week for guidance on leveling in Feral, a mere 10 levels at a time.

Well, while I only really know the modern game from the Feral point of view, this column is really for all Druids to enjoy.

So this week I thought I'd expand our discussion of Talent trees with a look at the Balance spec, from the point of view of two real experts.

So brew up some Goldthorn Tea, settle back, and let's take a look at respeccing to Balance with a full-on Balance build from 58 on through to 70 with Nasirah from A Tale of Two Druids, followed up with leveling from 10 to 70 as a mix of Balance and Restoration with Phaelia of Resto4Life.

Ready? Then let's get started!

Now, as a reminder, the Druid class has three Talent trees to choose from when spending Talent points each level; The Balance tree, the Feral tree, and the Restoration tree.

The Balance tree has Talents that focus on improving various aspects of casting ranged nature-based magical attacks. The Feral tree has Talents that improve melee combat, whether as a cat or a bear form, and Restoration has Talents that improve all aspects of the Healer style of game play.

When talking about Balance, we're mainly discussing how to optimize our game play to improve our ranged combat.

To start with, I'd like to present you with a Balance build designed to begin at level 58, right after a respec.

Nasirah, the author of the Druid blog A Tale of Two Druids, has said that she feels that leveling as Feral is the most efficient way to go, if you are looking at leveling your character as fast as possible to get to 58, and enter the Burning Crusade content through the Dark Portal.

But Nasirah loves playing as a Moonkin Druid, a Druid that specializes as a ranged DPS caster with all the bells and whistles, and the feathered Moonkin dance.

So she is sharing with us her foundation Balance build, for those players that have leveled to 58 the Feral way, and are now entering the Burning Crusade and want to get their Moonkin on.

At level 58, Nasirah recommends the following spec;

Balance (37)
5/5 Starlight Wrath
3/3 Control of Nature
2/2 Focused Starlight
2/2 Improved Moonfire
3/3 Brambles
1/1 Insect Swarm
2/2 Nature's Reach
3/3 Celestial Focus
3/3 Lunar Guidance
1/1 Nature's Grace
3/3 Moonglow
5/5 Moonfury
3/3 Dreamstate
1/1 Moonkin Form

Restoration (12)
5/5 Improved Mark of the Wild
5/5 Naturalist (or Nature's Focus)
2/3 Intensity

Now, for leveling in Burning Crusade past 58, Nasirah has two paths to recommend.

The first path is Balance, mixed with Restoration Talents.

If you plan on soloing often, but want to be strong in your healing for when you need to group up, then spending some points in Restoration will help. As Nasirah points out, you can still heal as a Balance spec, but having some points invested in the Restoration tree will improve your ability to heal a group.

Don't forget, if you plan on going down this path and are spending points in Restoration to improve your ability to heal groups, you should give yourself every advantage by keeping a set of healing gear ready. Healing gear can be either leather or cloth, and should focus on high Intellect, Wisdom, +Healing and MP/5 stats.

For the sake of preventing class warfare, can I please ask you to consider passing on cloth healing gear for your healing set, if you happen to be grouped with a Priest? Unless they don't need it, of course. It's only polite, since you have both cloth and leather to choose from.

For Balance from 58 to 70 with a Restoration twist;
3/3 Intensity
5/5 Subtlety
3/3 Improved Rejuvenation
1/1 Natures' Swiftness
2/5 Gift of Nature

The second option Nasirah mentions is going Balance all the way.

If you intend to spend most of your time soloing, and really want to focus on increasing your damage output, then Nasirah recommends spending your Talent points from 58 to 70 entirely within the Balance tree.

For a more concentrated Balance build from 58 to 70;
3/3 Intensity
5/5 Wrath of Cenarius
5/5 Vengeance
1/1 Force of Nature

I want to thank Nasirah for her insight and hard work in sharing with us her opinions on respeccing to Balance at 58 and placing those Talent points on through to 70.

For more details on the Talents Nasirah has chosen, and more insight into the Balance Druid spec, make sure to check out her in-depth article, which can be found here.

The reason why you would want to choose level 58 to respec, is so that the gear choices you make once you enter the Burning Crusade, and begin completing quests, will benefit your new role. It is my understanding that choosing gear and quest rewards high in Intellect, Spirit, +Spell Damage, +MP/5, Spell Hit and Spell Critical Chance will serve you well as a Balance caster.

I want to touch briefly on the Moonkin form, so some of you that have thought of playing a casting class, such as a Warlock or a Mage, can understand the nearly mystical allure it holds for some.

First, the Moonkin form is much like the Shadowform that Priests can gain access to, if they spec far enough into the Shadow tree.

Moonkin form requires spending 30 talent points in the Balance tree, a fairly substantial commitment. Moonkin form proudly announces to the world that you are focused on Balance, and not Feral or Resto.

One of the biggest obvious benefits of Moonkin form, besides becoming a giant horned chicken bent on world domination, is that, much like the Dire Bear form, you gain increased armor contribution from items.

To be more specific, your armor contribution from items is increased by 400% in Moonkin form. In addition, your attack power is increased by 150% of your level, your melee attacks have a chance 'on hit' to regenerate a portion of your Mana based on your attack power, and finally, all of your party members within 30 yards have their spell critical chance increased by 5%.

In return, you can only cast Balance spells and Remove Curse spells in Moonkin form. No super-armored healing as a Moonkin. (Darn it!)

Now, I'm not a Balance player, although reading some of the Balance Druid blogs out there makes me feel like respeccing and trying it out sometime soon. It sounds like a lot of fun.

But the Moonkin form description does make me wonder... the addition of melee improvements in the form, at first glance, seem odd. Sure, it's awesome for Balance Druids to have Bear armor in PvP... but the chance to regain Mana if you score a melee hit?

It sounds to me as though the Moonkin form is designed so that if a Moonkin runs out of Mana and is forced to go talon-to-toe with an enemy, the increased armor and attack power are meant purely to help the Moonkin survive long enough without heals to regain Mana, before rooting the target and moving back to extreme range and getting back to the blasting.

Any Balance Druids out there want to share your thoughts on how useful you find these Moonkin abilities in your game play?

Moving on from Nasirahs' level 58 Balance build, I'd like to recommend you go check out this epic article from Phaelia at Resto4Life.

In the article, Phaelia describes how some folks might not be in such a rush to level to 58 as a Feral Druid. Her opinion, and rightly so, is that many players are specifically attracted to the Druid for the powerful healing powers at their command. Those players might want to learn and grow in their healing roles as they level, rather than try to learn an entirely new play style at level 58. But they still would want to be able to put out the damage to speed up the leveling process.

For those players, Phaelia has written a guide to leveling as a mix of Balance and Restoration, from level 10 all the way through to 70.

Her Balance and Restoration build from 10 to 70 is as follows;
5/5 Starlight Wrath (10-14)
2/2 Improved Moonfire (15-16)
5/5 Improved Mark of the Wild (17-21)
5/5 Naturalist (22-26)
1/1 Omen of Clarity or replace with a point in Natures' Focus (27)
3/5 Nature's Grasp (28-30)
1/1 Insect Swarm (31)
3/3 Intensity (32-34)
1/5 Nature's Focus (35)
2/2 Focused Starlight (36-37)
2/2 Nature's Reach (38-39)
5/5 Vengeance (40-44)
1/1 Nature's Grace (45)
3/3 Moonglow (46-48)
3/3 Improved Rejuvenation (49-51)
3/5 Nature's Focus (52-53)
1/1 Nature's Swiftness (54)
5/5 Gift of Nature (55-59)
4/5 Subtlety (60-63)
1/1 Swiftmend (64)
3/3 Lunar Guidance (65-67)
3/3 Empowered Touch (68-69)
5/5 Subtlety (70)

The build she presents is not intended to be a final build for Restoration, instead focusing on giving you a strong balance between ranged DPS and healing as you level.

If such a build interests you while you level, I hope you'll visit her blog and read the article. She goes into excellent depth of analysis on why she chose each talent, and how it will benefit you as you grow.

That's it for this week, my friends. I certainly hope that this exposure to alternatives to Feral helps you to find a play style you will enjoy with your Druid.

Take the time to try out a little Balance, if only to find out for yourself if it's something you might enjoy. I think I might do the same this weekend, if only for the fun of doing the Moonkin dance!

Have fun all, and I'll see you again soon!

All works and analysis from Phaelia and Nasirah are used with their express permission. For a wonderful insight into life as a Restoration or Balance Druid, please visit their blogs at Resto4Life and A Tale of Two Druids.

Filed under: Druid, Analysis / Opinion, Features, Leveling, Guides, Classes, Talents, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives

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