Innervate as a tool
Dreamstate was recently added back into our talent tree in order to boost the gain of Innervate on the druid. The true purpose of this talent wasn't really to fix balance druid mana issues, though it did attempt to address that problem to a degree. The real reason was to create a system in which balance druids are forced to use Innervate on themselves every cooldown; otherwise, they will go OOM.
Blizzard has a new drastic fear that DPS druid specs need to either have an excessively weak Innervate -- as is the case for feral druids -- or their Innervate needs to be forced upon themselves. Without this, Blizzard fears that every raid under the sun will stack feral and balance druids just for the sake of having free Innervates for healers, which would trivialize mana. Frankly, I think this fear is completely misplaced. Back in vanilla WoW, Innervate functioned the exact way that Blizzard now seems to fear, and it did the same in The Burning Crusade as well; in both cases, mana was an issue for healers, and there was a very big risk of running OOM. In fact, restoration druids were brought to vanilla raids specifically for their ability to Innervate priests. Yet in neither of these eras did we ever see raids stacking balance and feral druids for their Innervate -- at least, not once feral and balance druids got access to Innervate in vanilla. In fact, we saw a very huge problem of balance and feral druids having trouble finding raid slots because they simply weren't ever worth it.
Even though the DPS of balance and feral druids has been more equalized with respect to pure classes since then, this still is not an issue that we have ever seen. There were several encounters in early Wrath in which mana could be an issue for healers, yet I have never heard of a time where even a single extra feral or balance druid was brought into a raid for the sole purpose of Innervate. There is simply no evidence in all the history of WoW that Innervate has ever been such a powerful ability that raids have even considered stacking balance or feral druids just to have access to another Innervate. There is no foundation upon which this fear is based.
Furthermore, it is impossible to balance balance druid mana regeneration around using Innervate on themselves wherein they won't be able to Innervate a healer at least once during an encounter. Considering that Innervate is up maybe twice during an encounter, I cannot possibly see how this is such a terrible premise. Is Blizzard really that scared that balance druids are going to be able to Innervate a single healer once during an encounter, leading to raid groups stacking balance druids in an effort to trivialize mana? Keep in mind that Innervate only returns 20 percent of total mana to another player; thus, we're speaking in terms of 13,000 mana, maybe up to 20,000 at high-end gear levels, which wouldn't even be enough for us to last 30 seconds with.
Simply put, Innervate has a 3-minute cooldown, and with Dreamstate, it refunds 50 percent of our total mana; this means that in order for a balance druid to not ever go OOM during an encounter, he would have to spend less than 50 percent of his total mana every 3 minutes. There are not many boss encounters that I know of that last for longer than 9 minutes -- in fact, only Lich King lasts that long -- which would be the expected OOM point if a balance druids uses less than 50 percent of his total mana every 3 minutes, uses the first Innervate on himself and the second on a healer. Even if we did Innervate a healer once and an encounter did last longer than 9 minutes, Innervate would be up again right when we reach the OOM point, and we'd be back up to 50 percent mana and be able to last another 3 minutes. In fact, under this system, it would only ever be possible for us to Innervate a healer once; otherwise, we would go OOM. How would that in any way cause raids to stack balance druids in order to trivialize mana?
To say that there is no feasible way to force a balance druid to never be able to Innervate another person is somewhat incorrect -- it is feasible to do, just not within the confines of the current mechanics. If the goal really is to force balance druids to use Innervate on themselves only, the solution is not elegant, but it can be functional.
Predominantly, there are two ways in which this can be done. The first method is to drastically increase the power of Dreamstate so that Innervate ends up returning around 80 to 90 percent of our total mana. With this system, a balance druid would need to expend approximately the same amount of mana every 3 minutes. With that level of mana regeneration, there simply isn't a feasible way in which the druid would be able to spare the Innervate for another player; if he did, he would OOM is less than a minute, which leaves a very small window of opportunity in order to spare any single Innervate.
It is possible that a balance druid would still be able to Innervate a healer under these conditions; however, it would have to literally be around 10 percent, or the druid is likely to go OOM before the boss is dead. On one hand, that's such a trivial time frame that it wouldn't make much of a difference; on the other, that is usually when healers are most pressed for mana, so it may be just the thing that they would need in order to have the raid last that little extra mile.
Another issue with this design is that a balance druid is still capable of sitting a Solar Eclipse doing nothing but casting Insect Swarm and spamming Moonfire to achieve approximately 70 to 80 percent of the standard rotational DPS while actually regenerating mana. In a situation in which a healer is OOM and needs an Innervate, that can end up being an acceptable sacrifice.
The other option is to have Dreamstate both boost Innervate's power when used on yourself and to reduce the cooldown. If Innervates's cooldown is lowered as well, then the amount of mana that we need to consume per minute is decreased. With a 3-minute cooldown, we're required to regenerate as much mana as Innervate returns every 3 minutes. With, say, a
1-minute cooldown, we would only need to regenerate as much as a Innervate supplies within that time period. Given the reduced cooldown and increased mana return, our mana consumption would be excessively high; this would mean that we wouldn't generally last more than 45 or so seconds if we choose to Innervate someone else. The flaw in this system, however, is that it actually would cause mana issues with healers. Given that, as stated before, a balance druid could sit in a Solar Eclipse and spam Moonfire and Insect Swarm for respectable (albeit low in comparison to other classes) DPS, this would allow him to freely Innervate anyone else every single minute. However, this could be avoided by also having Dreamstate make Innervate only usable on yourself.
Rebalancing passive mana regeneration
Regardless of what is chosen to be done with Innervate, our other sources of mana regeneration are going to have to be rebalanced. There simply isn't anyway to avoid it, given that we expend mana far too quickly. The easy fix, of course, is to merely re-adjust the gain from Euphoria. Although mana pool scaling is slightly difficult to pin down exactly, it would probably require Euphoria to be buffed to around 30 percent in order for our mana regeneration to match our mana consumption at a rate that would allow us to only expend 50 percent of our mana every 3 minutes. Actually, once you factor in additional spell usage beyond Starfire, Wrath and Starsurge, the value would probably have to be closer to 35 percent, perhaps even 40 percent.
Remember, the previous mana calculations were done without factoring haste. The additional Eclipse Power gains from Euphoria, which saves mana slightly, would be offset by the additional mana expenditure of non-Eclipse Power generating abilities. However, once you factor in haste, we'd probably end up spending more mana than previously stated due to haste's reducing the amount of time between Eclipse procs, thus causing us to passively regenerate less mana. Our mana cost would remain the same, but our mana regenerated would go down.
While tweaking Euphoria is such a manner is a great way to fix our mana issues as far as PvE is concerned, it does next to nothing to solve the issue for PvP. In PvP, we both spend additional mana and generate far less Eclipse Power, because it's difficult to chain cast Wrath and Starfire in a PvP setting. Due to this, Euphoria is not the right way to go in creating the mana regeneration outside of Innervate that balance druids need; instead, an entirely new regeneration mechanic is required.
A few beta patches ago, when Dreamstate was a specialization bonus for balance druids that caused us to regenerate a percentage of our total mana over time, we were at perhaps the most balanced point for our mana regeneration. At that time, we didn't particularly need Innervate for ourselves at all, which is perhaps what Blizzard saw as an issue. Euphoria and our passive mana regeneration covered everything that we needed, provided that we didn't do something exceptionally crazy. Heavy AoE or heavy healing would cause us to go OOM rather rapidly, as we were reliant on Euphoria in order to sustain our mana. Our mana wasn't infinite; we would eventually need to Innervate ourselves, but that time was rather long and you could merely drop spells such as Starfall and Thorns from the rotation to regenerate approximately as much mana as you spent, so there were work-arounds for low-mana situations.
Given that Blizzard wants a higher dependence on Innervate for balance druids, perhaps a happy middle ground would best be served. If this effect, which we'll call Lunar Regeneration for the sake of giving it a name, regenerated 3 percent of our total mana every 5 seconds, this would put us in around the same place that buffing Euphoria would. At 3 percent of our total mana, that would yield 1,950 mana every 5 seconds; with the 30 seconds previously mentioned to go from a Lunar Eclipse to a Solar Eclipse, that would be 11,700 mana. This would bring our mana regeneration up to 25,086 mana gained within that aforementioned time frame, with 29,810 mana spent.
For the Solar to Lunar side of things, we'd expect to regenerate 29,678 mana and expend 39,120 mana. Within the confines of this limited cost/gain outlook -- which I will admit isn't a perfect representation -- we would lose a net amount of approximately 15,000 mana every minute using nothing but Wrath and Starfire. After 3 minutes, this would amount to a total of 45,000 mana lost, while Innervate would be capable of restoring 32,500 mana -- frankly, a spot-on balance between mana expenditure and consumption.
Remember, that model isn't intended to be totally accurate. Our mana expenditure is actually going to be higher than that, given the use of spells that generate Eclipse, while our passive mana regeneration is actually going to be lower due to haste. However, this is without taking Moonglow, which reduces the mana cost of spells by 9 percent, nor Furor, which increases maximum mana by 15 percent. This is also using values for preraiding gear, so maximum mana values are going to increase while expenditure values shouldn't increase all that much. Replenishment wasn't taken into consideration, either (although Replenishment would only be an additional 325 MP/5 in this situation).
The suggested fix
In conclusion, balance druids do have mana issues as things stand at level 85 in beta, and they need to be fixed. Although Blizzard could tweak Innervate or Dreamstate in order to fix them, that isn't the best solution. Euphoria, too, could be changed to address our mana issues, but that doesn't function too well in PvP. The best answer to this problem is to add a new specialization for balance druids that allows them to regenerate 3 percent of their total mana over 5 seconds -- or alternatively, this could be made a talent; either way works. Through this, balance druids would expect to expend approximately 50 percent or so of their mana every 3 minutes, which is enough time to allow Innervate to come back off cooldown and replenish their mana supply without their running the risk of going OOM.
Given that healing as a balance druid costs vastly higher amounts of mana than using a DPS cycle, there is no risk that balance druids will do an excessive amount of healing; however, the system doesn't prohibit their doing light healing in extreme situations, which is how it should be. A balance druid will be able to Innervate a healer once during an encounter under this system -- simply not a reasonable concern to worry about. A single Innervate on one healer throughout the course of an entire encounter is not going to trivialize mana management for healers, nor is it going to open the door for raid groups to stack balance druids in an effort to ignore mana concerns for healers.
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