Gearing for higher-end soloing
After you've gotten all of the easy stuff out of the way, you may find yourself wanting to solo some of the more impressive things out there. While you will probably never be able to solo things such as heroic Halls of Lighting, as I've known paladins and death knights to do, you certainly can farm many of the hot-spot areas. One of the most important things in doing this is to always be prepared. You'll want to have health potions and mana potions handy as an emergency tool, but there is so much more than that. Soloing dungeons and raids relies upon three main principles: mitigation, output, longevity.
The time of the Moonkin tank, or Panzerkin if you prefer, may have come and gone, but that does not mean that gearing for mitigation stats is completely useless when attempting to solo content. Picking up spare rings or necklaces with armor and defense on them -- avoid things with merely dodge, parry, block or expertise, as they won't really help you -- is an excellent way to significantly boost your survivability. While the best items are obviously going to be coming out of the most current raiding tier, it shouldn't be too difficult to pick up a few of these on the cheap. There really aren't that many tanks out there who need these items, so snagging them won't always prove too difficult. There are also some craftable and vendor options to pick from. Also keep in mind boosting your stamina in anyway that you can. Although it doesn't afford raw mitigation, it does increase the time you have to get another heal off, which can be just as much of a lifesaver as anything else. Using PvP gear is also acceptable but usually not worth it. If you happen to be swimming in Emblems of Frost, the vendor cloak is also a nice choice to pick up. One thing to remember if you are soloing a raid encounter is to always strive to be defense-capped. Odd as it may sound, every raid boss in the game is still going to be flagged as three levels higher than you no matter what level you are, thus allowing them to land critical strikes against you. Even from a weaker boss, a crit is a crit and it will hurt; avoiding this will significantly cut back on the amount of damage you take.
While mitigation is dandy, always keep your output in mind. Filtering in higher armor and high stamina pieces in every slot is all well and good, but it is always going to come at a cost. Keep in mind that we are not paladins nor death knights and how we create an infinite timetable to deal with an encounter is significantly different. Their main healing output is based upon their health, while ours is base around spellpower, haste and crit. Having all of our standard DPS stats is very important for being able to solo higher-end content. To this end, never sacrifice too much output in order to gain mitigation; you always want to be able to kill things rapidly and heal yourself back up just as quickly.
Last, there is longevity to think about. Again, we are not paladins nor death knights, and our resources are very limited, especially when healing and shifting frequently; therefore, you never want to ignore your mana regeneration capabilities. For the purposes of soloing, I strongly suggest that you pick up at least Intensity, if not Dreamstate as well. For heroic encounters, this probably isn't needed as much, but it certainly will be if you plan on soloing any raid encounters. Balance druids usually avoid spirit on their gear, as it does little for them, so switch in some spare pieces you have for a restoration set. Keeping your mana regeneration high enough is the key between life and death in this dangerous business.
Getting down to it
Now, the key moment. What exactly can balance druids solo? There's a lot out there. When it comes to elite quests, the only ones off the top of my head that will give you any trouble is killing Arazzius the Cruel in Hellfire as well as all of the elite quests in Dragonblight. Most of the Magnataur quests are soloable, but the rest are usually beyond any single player that I've come across of equal level. That's just small stuff, though; the real prize is getting the heroics and raids down for all the shiny things.
Farming for Anzu
Going into heroic Sethekk Halls is one of the major points for nearly every druid out there. Only we can summon the great Anzu and ruthlessly farm him for one of the sweetest-looking mounts in the game. Feral druids often gloat at how easy it is for the to solo this, and it is much easier for them to do so -- yet it isn't difficult for us, either. To start with, you will want to stealth past all of the trash save for that inside of Anzu's room. Dealing with the trash here is fairly trivial for most balance druids; just remember all the basics of soloing anything. Always keep your health up and nuke them quick as you can. If you have troubles dealing with the trash using a basic method, positioning yourself for a Starfall/Hurricane combination will quickly wipe them out before they even really have a chance to touch you. This method takes longer, but it's very safe.
For Anzu himself, the fight can be slightly challenging when first attempted, but once you get the hang of it, the whole process is a cakewalk. Essentially, the fight boils down to a kill-or-be-killed method. You do not want the fight against Anzu to be a long, drawn-out affair; instead, it should be quick and dirty. Limit the amount of healing that you do to yourself while engaging Anzu as much as possible; essentially, you shouldn't need to heal at all and instead heal yourself up during his banish phases. Start the encounter on one far corner of the room and during each banish phase, run to the opposite corner, heal yourself, then AoE down the birds once the stun wears off. Keep an eye out for the extremely nasty curse that he'll toss on you and remove it the moment that it goes up. Really, just play aggressively and you'll end up winning in the end.
Farming ZG (Raptor/Tiger)
Mount bosses are all the rage, are they not? We'll start with High Priest Thekal or "the tiger boss" on this one. Thekal is likely one of the more difficult of the two in ZG to solo simply because his two friends that join in on the fight are annoying pains in the arse. Seriously, they are. The good news is that the encounter is still ridiculously easy to solo simply because none of them will really be able to output significant enough amounts of damage that you cannot outheal. The only annoying part of this encounter is that all three of the mobs need to die relatively close to the same time as the others or the encounter will reset itself. While simply using AoE is an option for this, I would suggest against it, as Hurricane is a huge mana hog and you'll be interrupted using it rather frequently from the rogue. Really, all you need to do is tab-DoT all three of them, then nuke whichever has the highest amount of health while the DoTs tick away.
The shaman that can heal can be a bit frustrating. You can use Typhoon as a temporary interrupt, but the shaman will merely cast once again after he's landed. The only trick is to just plow right through. The silence can be equally annoying, but it shouldn't ever really endanger your life if you play smart. It will make killing them a slower process, but so long as you have enough mana regeneration, there really isn't anything about the encounter that should threaten you. Wait to use Force of Nature and Starfall when the three of them get relatively low on health and it should be easy-cakes. After the three are dead, Thekal will come back as a tigermanbeast, and it's basically game, set, match at that point. None of his abilities are excessively powerful and there's no wonky timing mechanic to deal with. Just nuke and loot. Thekal isn't a difficult encounter to solo, but it does require a lot of output, so it's best to bring a friend along for this ride unless you're in T10 gear.
Next comes Bloodlord Mandokir. The encounter is fairly famous, but in case you've never done it, here's a quick rundown. Mandokir is a fairly basic fight. He has a pet raptor with him, does Mortal Strike and will sometimes watch you and if you do anything he'll charge ... well, not really, since you're tanking him. Anyway, going into this encounter, you're faced with several options. If you think your burst is high enough, then you can choose to ignore the raptor and burn down Mandokir as rapidly as possible, healing when needed and using every tool you have to stay alive. A nice trick is to fight him up on top of the platform he starts on and them run off the edge, shifting into Cat Form on the way down, when you need to buy some time to heal yourself. It works rather well and the fight is fairly simple this way; however, it absolutely cannot last a long time if you choose this method. The raptor uses Sunder Armor, which will eventually cause you to take a level of damage far higher than you are likely able to heal through.
There is another option, though. To start with, kill the raptor outright; doing so causes Mandokir to enrage for 120 seconds. At this point, you have two choices. If your output and mitigation is high enough, you can merely tank the enraged Mandokir and go on from there. He'll deal significantly higher levels of damage than you would normally take with just the raptor and him on you, but less than if you allow Sunder to stack up. I've used this method and it works, but it's rough to get through and can be tricky. The second choice is to kite Mandokir until his enrage wears off. You'll need to clear all the trash down towards the entrance to his area before doing this, but it's quite easy. To kite him, just use Travel Form and run like the wind, making circles around the little altar at the bottom of his path and the main altar that he starts at. By dropping down from this point, you can buy yourself enough time to get a few HoTs off and get far away before he catches you.
Attumen the Huntsman Coming soon!
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).