Moonkin form may not be able to fly, but this balance druid is still up on cloud nine. It's another bright new shiny day in the World of Warcraft, and our feathery friend (you did know that Eyonix plays a balance druid, right?) made a post of epic proportions. How does it fair for us? Well, let's have a gander shall we?
- Spirit is being completely removed from caster DPS gear in the next expansion. Caster DPS will no longer have to rely on the atrocious spirit stat for their mana regeneration, instead non-healers will have other methods of regaining their mana within combat. The latter part of this change is already true for PvE balance druids. Instead of spirit, we rely entirely on our crits to keep our damage flow pumping. I would expect that this is the type of system that Blizzard is going to go with, although it will probably be heavily adjusted since total dependence on the mana return from crits wasn't obtainable until higher levels of gear.
- Spirit will not be removed from all caster based leather gear. Sadly, this means that balance druids are still going to be stuck using it. Fear not, however, because Blizzard is already on the ball. Instead of swiping cloth caster gear from mages, warlocks, and priests, balance druids will have the spirit on their gear translate into hit. The exact translation isn't yet known, but I would expect it to end up being similar to what you see on a standard hit item. That is to say, if a 264 cloth item has 50 hit, then the 80 spirit on a 264 leather item would also equal to 50 hit. The up side is that buffs which increase spirit are being removed, so there we won't have to juggle our gear around raid composition.
- Ratings will now scale with raiding tiers. That is to say, that it will take more hit to cap against an ICC raid boss than it would to cap against, say, a Naxx raid boss. This is a change which has been mentioned before, but with the aforementioned conversion of spirit into hit; it is a very welcome one for balance druids. This will help us in terms of scaling properly from gear since, as of right now, gear will continue to get more spirit on it, yet the cap would remain the same. It is slightly upsetting for 'farm' content, since it means that you'll most likely be running over the hit cap if you are in ICC gear and go back to clear Naxx, but, honestly, that's why they call it farm content.
- Mastery will be added to gear as a new stat to simply "make you better at what you do." While not all too much is known about what this will mean for balance druids specifically, we do know that it will be tied to talent points and that Blizzard intends to use it as a balancing tool for most classes. The other great thing about mastery is that, since it is tied to the number of talent points within a tree, it means you'll still see a DPS increase from taking 'flavor' talents that generally aren't used for DPS. Typhoon? Check. Brambles? Check. Genesis? Well, the jury is still out on that one, but probably a check.
- Spell power is being removed from all items and is being replaced with intellect instead. Intellect will now directly increase your spell power. This is a change that I've been excitied about since it was first mentioned at Blizz-con. It may mean that talents such as Furor and Lunar Guidance are changed to something else, but overall it will be a vast improvement. Spell power is being retained on caster weapons as a means of balancing their damage contribution against the damage of melee weapons without over inflating intellect.
- Reforging will allow us to convert an unwanted stat into something else. Due to spirit being turned into hit, this is likely to be a big plus for balance druids. With reforging, you can adjust a spirit item that might put you over the hit cap into something else such as cirt to increase your raw DPS.
This expansion is going to cause some major changes in the way that balance druids gear themselves. Some of them may seem questionable to some people, but I am personally very stoked about them. So stoked in fact that I'm actually using the word stoked. The transition from Wrath of the Lich King to Cataclysm may be a bit iffy for some of us depending on what off-pieces we've geared ourselves with, but such a small, brief discomfort is gladly tolerable for bright days in the future.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In WoW.com's Guide to Cataclysm you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From Goblins and Worgens to Mastery and Guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.