Step 2: New spells -- what are you talking about?
Love it or hate it, Nourish has been a very good addition to the restoration toolkit. Though there are difficulties in balancing out spell HPS that I won't go into, the theory behind the spell is very solid: a direct application ability that is dependent upon over time effects on the target. While there have been balancing issues with spells such as Lava Burst and Mind Blast, a short cooldown spell can actually be a very good thing, and it would be the addition to the balance toolkit that we are currently missing.
Let's face it, balance druids want a new spell. We feel like we've been stuck with the same things since release. To an extent, we have been. The only real new additional spells that balance has seen in each expansion has been another long-cooldown spell that's nice but not really part of our rotation. Adding in another nuke, however, is really out of the question for us. What purpose would it serve? We already have a short cast-time nuke and a longer cast-time nuke, both with fairly similar DPS levels, so what could another new nuke really do for our rotation if it were spammable? The only other option is a new DoT, which would be cool and all, but we aren't so much a DoT class and it isn't a position we should be pushed into. To that end, any new spell that we get which is going to be part of our rotation is either going to have to be a buff style spell à la Savage Roar or it is going to have to be a nuke with a short cooldown attached to it, similar to Mind Blast. In face of those choices, I beg for the latter. There are, though, two directions in which such a spell could, or at least should in my opinion, take.
The Nourish look-alike A spell that deals its damage dependent upon the DoTs that are on the target, similar to the way that Nourish functions, is one viable method of adding in a new ability. The theory behind the spell is quite simple. It would be a mid-range "burst" ability that is higher DPS than both Wrath and Starfire, yet limited by a short, 8-second or so cooldown. Essentially, the spell would be a Mind Blast clone. For those who are keeping current with shadow priests, this may seem like a bad choice, considering that many shadow priests are completely dropping Mind Blast from their rotations at this point. However, this is a flaw that is more so unique to shadow priests and is not inherent within the design of the spell itself.
As a quick vision for the spell, I would have it something akin to this. First, it would have either a 2-second or 2.5-second base cast time, which is reduced by .5 seconds via Starlight Wrath. The spell would also have to benefit equally from talents which affect both Wrath and Starfire, possibly barring Improved Insect Swarm. Those would be talents such as Vengeance, Moonfury, Wrath of Cenarius and Nature's Majesty. On the topic of Wrath of Cenarius, the actual spellpower coefficient should probably end up being slightly higher than that of Wrath; what I mean is, the spellpower-per-second gain of the spell should be slightly higher. Talented, Wrath gains approximately 44.76% spellpower per second, while Starfire gains approximately 40%. If the spell has the same 2-second base cast time as Wrath, then it would mirror Wrath exactly, and the bonus from Wrath of Cenarius should probably be adjusted upwards by 5%, giving the spell approximately 48% spellpower per second. With a base cast time of 2.5, a 10% bonus from Wrath of Cenarius would mean the spell gains 40.71% spellpower per second, while a 15% bonus would be 43.12%. In the case of a 2.5 base cast time, the spell would need to gain 20% spellpower like Starfire does, which would be 45.71% spell power per second. The reasoning for having a slightly higher spellpower coefficient is to ensure the spell's scaling remains intact, as it would have a limited DPS increase via haste due to the nature of having a cooldown.
The damage bonus from DoTs would really be a function of a few different things: base damage, expected damage and the importance the DoTs should play. It would be entirely possible for the spell to have a base damage range of 200 - 210 yet gain something akin to 100% additional damage for each DoT on the target. It would be silly to balance the spell in such a manner, but it could be done. I would venture to guess that a 10% bonus per DoT would be a reasonably expected figure. To that end, the base damage would probably need to be closer to that of Wrath's, maybe slightly higher such as 700s-800s range, for the spell to work as expected. In actuality though, this is the trickiest part of the spell. The spell would need to have a higher damage per cast time than Wrath and Starfire while under the effects of Eclipse, otherwise the spell is virtually useless. Since we know Eclipse is changing but not how, pinning down more exact numbers is complicated.
The Swiftmend look-alike The other option for a spell which functions off of Moonfire and/or Insect Swarm is one that has also been brought up several times before. This version would function similar to Swiftmend, in that it causes either Moonfire or Insect Swarm to be instantly "consumed" into a burst of damage equal to a set time frame of the spell. Although I might not be as excited by this concept, it would certainly be a large benefit for balance PvP in allowing for specific periods of burst. The one flaw about this spell, though, is that it directly correlates to the damage of our DoT effects.
In reality, this isn't such a terrible thing at first glance. For example, a Glyphed Insect Swarm at 4,000 spellpower would deal around 11,500 damage over the course of its duration. What is at issue is that this new spell clearly could not be based off of the full duration of our DoTs. Otherwise, it could very easily become far too powerful in PvP. Yet from a PvE standpoint, 11,500 damage from an instant spell is not that high. Remember, an Eclipsed Wrath at the same level would deal around 6,500 damage non-crit, so a gain of 5,000 damage on a spell with a moderate cooldown would not be a big deal. With a 10-second cooldown, this would account for an increase of around 500 DPS, which is significant, but not overtly so. It's around a 5% increase.
Another slight technicality is that the spell has no true scaling of its own. It would only scale off the spellpower of our DoTs and from crit. That isn't really a negative thing, though, especially considering that our DoTs have some pretty solid spellpower scaling (or at least Insect Swarm does).
How strong the spell hits for and the impact it would hold on our overall DPS is largely a factor of the cooldown on the ability. If the cooldown is short enough that it could be used twice per DoT application, then it should probably only deal half the damage of the DoT itself. This would also bring up the issue of whether or not the spell would actually consume the DoT, or if it would not consume it baseline, or if there would be a talent or Glyph to have it not consume the DoT. All of that would also determine how the spell would fit within our rotation.
Step 3: Durations, refreshes and bears, oh my!
Okay, so it really doesn't have anything to do with Bear Form, but no one can resist the Wizard of Oz reference. It's no secret (or maybe it is) that DoTs fail or succeed largely based upon of their durations. It is because of this principle that Nature's Splendor and the Starfire Glyph are so potent. Longer DoTs don't just mean more damage per cast on the DoT itself, but they also mean that you get to cast more spells before needing to refresh the DoTs themselves. Normally, the latter wouldn't matter all too much, but with Improved Insect Swarm (the aforementioned other talent to also boost our nukes' interactions with DoTs), it does matter. Nature's Splendor is a very strong talent, and I wouldn't want to change that nor make it any stronger, but that doesn't mean that our DoTs couldn't stand to see a duration boost in some other form or another.
The first form would be to bake the Glyph of Starfire into a talent or to add in a similar talent/Glyph for Insect Swarm. The reasoning is this: Our DoTs are currently tied to their respective nuke rather nicely. Wrath pairs with Insect Swarm, Starfire with Moonfire. Also, balance druids rotate between both Wrath and Starfire within their standard rotation. To this end, you would want each respective DoT up during the time in which you are using its paired nuke; however, the current durations do not really allow for this. Moonfire, with the Starfire Glyph, currently works all right at it, generally lasting throughout a Lunar Eclipse and long enough to proc a Solar Eclipse. The same is not true for Insect Swarm, which will generally fall off around the time a Solar Eclipse ends.
Moonfire and Insect Swarm need to have durations that last long enough to pair up with the rotation of our nukes within a reasonable expectation of RNG. As I said, Moonfire is nearly there, although an additional three to six seconds would not hurt. It is Insect Swarm that needs a bit of work. Insect Swarm needs a talent/glyph similar to the one for Starfire that allows Wrath to extend its duration (probably around five ticks, which would yield a 24-second duration). Although this would somewhat "dumb down" the balance rotation to a degree, it is much better than the alternative into which we are now forced. Currently, a balance druid has to think on the fly and instinctively know whether it would be a DPS increase or loss in order to refresh Insect Swarm during a period of Wrath casting. Due to the RNG nature of Eclipse, this isn't a positive position. Again, the changes coming to Eclipse may fix this situation somewhat, but we cannot be sure.
Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of truth, beauty, and insight concerning the druid class. Sometimes it finds the latter, or something good enough for government work. Whether you're a Bear, Cat, Moonkin, Tree, or stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny on druid changes in patch 3.3, a look at the disappearance of the bear tank, and thoughts on why you should be playing the class (or why not).