For all the talk that I generally do about PvE stuff, I don't mean to totally ignore the PvP side of the game. Druids are, in a general sense, a fairly squishy class when they are caught unshifted or shifted into Cat Form. Similarly to how rogues are currently far too easy to kill once their cooldowns are gone, druids are just as easy to kill when we aren't in a form. Due to how soft leather armor is, Moonkin Form has become the first and last line of defense that balance druids have against being completely destroyed by anything that tries to poke us with sharp instruments of death. The increased armor on Moonkin Form is a very big deal, far bigger than people realize, and yet even that isn't all that high.
It is a very common misconception that a balance druid running around in Moonkin Form has plate levels of armor; the truth is that it is closer to that of mail armor while using a shield, which is a good 5% or more less physical damage reduction than pure plate offers even when not using a shield. What's more, both warriors and death knights have methods to further increase their damage reduction via Defensive Stance or Frost Presence. The damage reduction implications from these abilities aside, they still remain as options for when the warrior or death knight is being trained and aren't something that can be totally written off as useless.
When it comes to PvP, Moonkin Form is far too much of our defense as it stands currently. There is nothing inherently wrong with that fact, and there is a balance to it. Just as warriors or death knights have to give up damage or utility in order to drop into their defensive modes, we have to give up our ability to heal in order to gain higher defenses and marginally increased damage. That is the drawback of being in Moonkin Form, yet I would say that the benefits of Moonkin Form are not nearly enough to cover the cost that we have to pay for it.
Make no mistake, going into a heavy PvP battle outside of Moonkin Form is not a wise choice; you are bound to get slaughtered if you attempt it, yet for the utility of healing that we have to give up in order to be in our defensive mode, we simply do not gain enough. As a respectable comparison, a balance druid in Moonkin Form is going to take more damage than a shadow priest in Shadowform. One could argue that this is somewhat acceptable. A balance druid still has access to Entangling Roots, Cyclone and Typhoon while shifted, although a priest would have access to Psychic Scream, Psychic Horror and Silence.
I don't want to turn this into a shadow priest versus balance druid debate. There are pros and cons across both sides, and devolving into a juvenile "but they have what I want" argument is both petty and useless. The point I am attempting to make here is that balance druids need a little bit more protection against damage than they currently have; most importantly, they need that protection to not come from Moonkin Form.
Having some of our survivability tied into Moonkin Form is a good thing; it isn't something that should change at all. By giving up the ability to heal, a balance druid does need the ability to take more punishment. That being said, druids are not priests and balance druids are not shadow priests. It might be expected that a shadow priest almost always relies upon staying in Shadowform while in PvP (although I would argue against that premise as well), but it certainly is not acceptable to expect a balance druid to always remain in Moonkin Form. We are a shapeshifting class; shapeshifting is what we do, what we are, and shapeshifting needs to be far more versatile that it is today.
In PvP, a vast majority of druids do not actively shapeshift at all. Beyond feral druids who will sometimes choose between Cat or Bear Form depending on their needs, you will almost always see a restoration druid in Tree of Life and a balance druid in Moonkin Form. They will not change; they will not unshift, because to do so is to invite death. Being unshifted makes a druid far too weak currently; druids across the board need better survivability when they aren't in their respective defensive forms. I cannot say how this should be done, only that it should.
Damage reduction capability is a concept that I personally feel is far beyond the prowess of the player base. Yes, we can do calculations that offer strict mitigation comparisons; yes, we can make suggestions on what could improve survivability. But at the end of the day, only Blizzard can really understand how they wish for the vast matrix of everything that encompasses survivability to be balanced. After all, survivability is far more than mere mitigation; it is cooldowns, it is escape mechanics, it is CC, it is everything. A balance druid may have far higher mitigation than a frost mage, but the mage is going to have much higher survivability due wide array of abilities that they possess to avoid damage entirely.
There is no way of knowing precisely which portion of survivability is too low or what tweaks (even minor ones) might cause it to skyrocket. Nothing in PvP can be changed as a stand-alone mechanic; everything that is changed interacts with every other ability in the game in some way, especially when it comes to subjects such as this. This is why I generally choose to avoid speaking in terms of changing PvP. There are simply far too many variables that need to be considered. Even the smallest of changes would take pages upon pages of theorycrafting in order to properly guess how it might alter the PvP scene.
Make no mistake, though: Balance druids do need higher survivability, and they need for it to not be tied to Moonkin Form. Having the option to give up some amount of survivability to use our healing spells isn't an option at all if doing so means we will instantly go splat. Balance druids need to have that option.
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).