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Shifting Perspectives: PTR 4.0.6, balance and you

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat , bear , restoration and balance druids.This week, I'm going picture hunting. If you happened to send any in last week, chances are I didn't get them. Our emails over here recently changed, and I can now be reached at tyler@wowinsider.com. So send your pics!

Okay, okay, so I know that I had originally promised to start doing the raiding guide this week, and I was so totally going to do that, but the information that's currently up on the latest PTR is just too juicy to pass up. Like the mythical GC pony, the raid guide will come next week, I promise.

The PTR doesn't hold a lot of information for balance druids overall, but what it does hold is amazingly amazing. (Props to those who know where that one comes from.) There are a few nerfs, and they come in areas where we really needed buffs instead, but there are quite a number of buffs out there as well that can certainly whet the palate. There are also some important profession and general changes that will help everyone, including balance druids. I'm normally not a fan of huge balancing patches such as these that come out so soon after an expansion is released -- rage, what good was beta, and all that -- but at least we are finally getting these changes now.

And what changes are those? Oh, why, I'm so glad that you asked.

Wild Mushroom

The spell that has pissed off a lot of druids, and probably Captain Teemo as well, is getting the buff treatment that it finally deserves. If you happen to follow the WoW druid or damage dealing forums at all, then you have probably noticed there are a lot of druids upset over the current functionality of Wild Mushroom. You might have also noticed that I have been defending Wild Mushroom since Day One. Before getting into the changes, let me highlight to finer points of Wild Mushroom as the spell stands on live servers.
  • Wild Mushroom is by far and large our strongest AoE spell. Hurricane cannot keep up -- using at least one set of Mushrooms against an AoE pack is the best AoE option that we have.
  • Wild Mushroom is a great stop-and-go movement spell. There are a lot of times when movement isn't continuous; instead, you'll move for a few seconds, stop for a few seconds, then move again. These situations suck for Lunar Shower and for our standard rotation. Planting mushrooms during the short movement phases is a great DPS option, unless you can keep moving to retain Lunar Shower stacks.
  • Wild Mushroom is a great node defense mechanic, but we've all known that.
There are a lot of failings to Wild Mushroom; the cast time, lag, and short range make them all but unusable in traditional PvP, and they are pretty much worthless for feral druids. The range also makes the spell hard to use in AoE situations because mobs just don't like to cluster where you want them, and any tank movement at all can completely ruin your entire setup. Finally, there is also an issue with their cast time in which the game will tell you that you can plant another mushroom, but you actually cannot, and it can take several clicks to actually have one go down. Yes, yes, the spell is terrible.

There have been numerous fixes suggested here and there, but personally, I like what Blizzard chose to do with Wild Mushroom. Here are the list of changes on the PTR:
  • Wild Mushroom is now instant-cast.
  • Damage increased by 15%.
  • Range of the expansion has been increased from 3 yards to 6 yards.
  • Fungal Growth will now proc when the 'shrooms are detonated from up to 100 yards away instead of 30 yards.
I doubt these changes will be enough to make everyone happy, but I am not going to complain about them at all. From my stance, they address every single issue that Wild Mushroom had and then some.

On AoE, our best option was usually one set of mushrooms then running around multi-DoTing everything and spamming Moonfire -- clearly not what Blizzard intended, but there's nothing it can really do about it other than actually make Hurricane worth casting and not eat up so much of our mana. With this change, little is different save for one thing. You will start with a single Moonfire, run around planting mushrooms while building Lunar Shower, detonate and keep spamming Moonfire. Just keep repeating the cycle after that, spamming Moonfire and dropping mushrooms to detonate whenever they are off cooldown. It isn't elegant, but at least Wild Mushroom now has an actual place in AoE.

From the PvP point of view, it is now much more practical to simply plop down a single mushroom (or even two or all three) in order to get Fungal Growth down. Lag issues with Fungal Growth proccing aside, the biggest issue was that we couldn't stay mobile while dropping mushrooms, which made kiting using Fungal Growth far too difficult to actually do. Now, we can plop one down a bit ahead of ourselves and detonate it instantly in order to get an AoE snare field down to aid in our escape.

Last, there is movement DPS in raids. Lunar Shower is great movement DPS, but only if you are going to be constantly moving. While there are examples of this in current encounters, it simply isn't always the case. Often you are moving in small amounts at a time to the point where Lunar Shower is worthless -- or even worse, a DPS loss. Now we actually have a better movement option. Tossing mushrooms under the boss is a great solution for sporadic movement during raid encounters. You can simply detonate them once you stop moving.

One important thing to always remember about Wild Mushroom is that Wild Mushroom: Detonate is off the GCD. You can macro it into anything; you can use any other ability you want while setting them off. A lot of people have been saying that you have to use four GCDs to make use of all three mushrooms, that simply isn't true -- you only use three.

Mastery

I don't think anyone likes Eclipse; I don't think anyone will ever like Eclipse. No matter what Blizzard does, no matter how it changes the mechanic, Eclipse just has this stigma against it that I fully believe will cause people to hate it no matter what is done with it. Even I detest certain aspects of Eclipse.

For all the resentment that Eclipse generates, it is a viable, working mechanic -- in most of the game, at least. PvP issues notwithstanding, Eclipse does at least function well in PvE. Hey, we got something going for us, right? For as good or bad as Eclipse may or may not be, Blizzard did recognize that mastery is not a strong stat for balance druids, so the developers buffed it.
  • Total Eclipse now increases the bonus damage from Eclipse by 16%, up from 12%.
  • Each point of mastery now increases the bonus damage by 2%, up from 1.5%.
For a long time, it has been accepted that mastery is our weakest secondary stat; even I have said this. While it was (and to a point is) true, a more accurate statement would have been that mastery is our weakest secondary stat until we get into some raiding gear, at which point it eeks over crit to take the middle spot. At exactly what point of gearing this occurs, I haven't been able to pinpoint, nor have I seen it from anywhere else, but I do know that it does occur.

But what does this change to mastery actually mean? Well, the buff is actually something of a double-edged sword for the mastery stat. On one hand, the increase in scaling from the mastery stat means that it is most definitely better than crit now, but at the same time, the boost to the baseline effect lowers that scaling just a little bit. Part of the reason why mastery wasn't that stellar to begin with was because Eclipse is still that good before you even gear for mastery.

Still, with this change, mastery should end up better than crit at all gearing levels, and certainly once you start raiding. What does this mean, though? Pretty much nothing. The raiding BiS gearing lists that balance druids might have made at this point aren't really going to change, and if they do, it will only be rings that get switched.

In this raiding tier, gear selection is pretty terrible for a lot of classes and specs, but balance/restoration druids in particular suffer from it. There are no real gearing choices. There is only one drop via raids for each item slot. That's right, there is only one pair of caster gloves, one pair of caster boots, one pair of bracers, one chest, one everything. The only slots where we really have any options at all are rings, cloaks, necks, and trinkets -- and that's only because we can make use of spirit. For non-heroic, raid-level gearing, there are a few additional options in the ring, back, and neck slots (technically belt, too), but once you reach heroic raiding, there are only one of each, barring the random enchant options from Conclave of Wind (and I believe there's a caster neck on Sinestra's loot table as well.)

Because of this, there simply isn't any gear that can be switched around based on stat priorities. Whether mastery is terrible or not, you will be using Manacles of the Sleeping Beast; there's just nothing else to use. You will still use the tier gloves, helm, pants and chest, with the shoulders being the only optional piece due to tier's not having hit and the non-tier's being spirit/haste. You will still use the reputation belt until heroic gear, and then you only have one belt choice, anyway.

The only thing that this change has any impact on is that you will now favor haste/mastery rings over haste/crit rings, and mastery/spirit or mastery/hit rings over crit/spirit or crit/hit rings. Thus far, there are no other real options in any of the other slots.


Filed under: Druid, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives

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