Owlbears, I spend an awful lot of time discussing Eclipse and the various ways that I'm just a little bit unhappy with the system of DPS that we have. To be quite honest, I'm tired. For one day, can't we all just be faceroll arcane mages, casting nothing but Arcane Blast, maybe a Missiles here and there? I'd really like that, really I would. I don't think anything would quite make my day as that would. Alas, it is not to be.
The real question is why anyone should bother their pretty little heads playing possibly the fattest characters in WoW. Face it, folks: Moonkin are huge. And despite what some people may have been saying lately, it seems we do have friends -- or at least people who are willing to keep our fluffy feathers around. Which, you know ... I'll take that.
Loot drops are pretty much the best driving force to create a balanced raid composition that you can think of. Prior to Cataclysm, it was actually more beneficial than it is now to use a wide mixture of classes and specs in a raid group over stacking any single class or spec. The reason was gear.
No matter how you look at it, every raiding guild needs a healthy mixture of specs. Even though a boss can drop multiples of the same item -- and trust me, the next time I see three helms drop from Atramedes, I may have a complete mental breakdown -- you still want to make sure that there is a relatively even distribution of armor categories in a given raid. This allows for the raid group to make the most of out of every drop that it does manage to get.
It may be possible that, say, affliction warlocks are the highest DPS spec in the game right now, and so you want to try and stack as many of them as you can into a single raiding group. So you grab eight of them. With eight warlocks in the raid (and presumably at least one mage of some variety), that's quite a large number of people who are going to need the exact same gear.
As I said, armor distribution is far better now than it used to be, but having a broad raid composition still leads to better distribution of loot. It allows more items to be used and fewer to be sharded -- particularly in the case of balance druids.
A raid group usually isn't going to have many leather spell casters. My raids only have two, with a tree and myself. Even if your guild is heavy on restoration druids, that means you raid with, what, three at most? I'd say that two restoration druids is usually about the average for any given guild. With that few players who need such niche itemization, you really want to make sure that you have some in order to avoid instantly dusting any leather caster gear right off the bat.
Balance druids are extremely useful for helping to ensure that leather caster items don't get wasted, which is why it's good to have at least one, if not two, in a raid group. For 10-man groups, composition usually matters slightly less in regards to itemization. With the exception of cloth, you generally won't ever run into a stacking issue with any armor type.
Sustained AOE potential
When people think of AOE, they kind of default to thinking of fire mages and demonology warlocks. Ha! Truth be told, both specs offer some of the best burst AOE capabilities, but neither of them would be what I would consider the undisputed kings of AOE.
Okay, okay, so maybe I'm stretching the truth just a little bit there; it's a well-known fact now that balance druids have some of the strongest AOE potential in the game, and we really, really do. Balance AOE is currently the single best sustained AOE that you will find. Fire and demonology both are capable of periods of very high AOE damage, but only balance can keep that level of damage running ... well, forever.
Our AOE damage never tapers, never falters, never changes. There is a good reason that balance druids were used for Sinestra to single-handedly tackle all of the AOE damage during the encounter. Yes, multiple guilds have used nothing more than two balance druids to kill all of the whelps during the encounter.
Now, the changes so far to Lunar Shower in the upcoming patch slightly lower our AOE damage, but anyone who thinks it will hold a significant reduction in damage is lying to themselves (or at the very least, to you). Lunar Shower is not the cause of our high AOE damage; it does extremely little in terms of our overall AOE damage. The majority of our damage comes from the actual ticks of both our DOTs and Wild Mushroom. Multi-DOTing and our AOE won't really be touched in the next patch. Nerfs? Nope, we avoid them.
Facts are facts, and it is a fact that balance druids have the best dance moves. I'm not sure that there's any ability to counter that or why anyone should need this explained to them. If you doubt for even a second that balance druids aren't the best at knowing how to break it down, then just spend some time with one in game. You'll see -- oh, you'll see.
We also happen to make the absolute best combat noises ever. Seriously, have you ever actually struck a moonkin? I mean, I don't support the act by any means -- I think you should never hit a moonkin -- but, I mean, have you? The way they squawk is adorable.
Buffs, buffs, buffs!
In terms of buffs, we still technically have pretty much one of the widest arrays of them than virtually any other spec out there. We naturally bring Mark of the Wild, as any druid does. We bring Moonkin Form, which increases raid haste. We have Earth and Moon to increase magical damage taken by a creature -- and after the next patch, we'll be able to apply it in AOE, too. We can reduce a target's armor via Faerie Fire. We are extremely potent in terms of the breadth of buffs and debuffs that we bring, and we bring some of the most important ones to the table.
People may not pay as much attention to buffs and debuffs in 25-man raiding, but buffs are a huge deal in 10-man raiding. I haven't looked at the matter since Cataclysm, but I know that in Wrath, it wasn't even possible to get every buff short of a combination of 12 people. With the reduction in buffs that this expansion brought, it may be possible now, but that wouldn't make it practical. 10-man groups want to stack the most of a single damage type as they can in order to capitalize on what buffs they have; therefore, any spec that has an overabundance of buffs and debuffs is the most useful, as it allows for more players to perform to a higher level.
Again, this is why balance druids are just so useful to a raid group. Spell haste, spell damage, and armor reduction are some of the strongest buffs/debuffs that you are going to find. Not to mention that Mark of the Wild is the strongest "general" stat-increasing buff.
Getting more than you bargained for
On top of the vast number of general buffs and debuffs that balance druids bring to a raid, we also bring a wide number of non-standardized utility that can't entirely be defined by any number or calculation. We have a knockback (one of the few still in the game) that has still proven to be rather useful in a wide array of cases; apparently the new Ragnaros encounter benefits heavily from having someone with this capability.
Typhoon doesn't just knock things back, but it also slows them for a period of time. The slow isn't significant, but it is certainly useful, as it buys even more time. If you are looking to slow things down, though, balance druids have the best AOE slow in the game now. You might think that an odd statement considering that no one ever uses balance druids for AOE slows, yet we can cover the largest amount of ground with a slowing field.
Not only that, but we can cover three entirely different sectors of a room all at once. Fungal Growth is an amazing slow if you need it. It does come with a trade-off (which is the vast downside and the reason why no one ever uses it) in that you won't be able to use Wild Mushrooms for damage. Despite that drawback, if you need an AOE slow and don't have another option, we can easily fill in.
Even though it does come with the loss in damage that it does, Wild Mushroom does still have the one benefit that other slows don't. As I mentioned, you can hit three target areas all at once, but it also has a very quick repositioning cooldown. Things like Valks on the dated Lich King encounter would have really benefited from Fungal Growth, because you could keep them slowed and adjust the slow field every time they moved or if positioning got messed up.
We also have a battle rez. While players are upset over the fact that warlocks and death knights now have that utility, why would you ever use these options if you have a druid around? All specs of druids use the Rebirth glyph, which there is no similar option for the other classes that bring this utility. Bringing a player back to life with full health is a huge advantage over bringing someone back with limited life.
Despite their joked-about strength, Tranquility and Innervate still both have their uses. If there is a large amount of raid damage or a period when the entire raid needs to be rapidly healed, then tossing out a Tranquility is a huge benefit. These situations aren't likely to occur frequently (or they shouldn't, at least), so the long cooldown is meaningless.
Innervate is being nerfed, again, probably due to balance druids -- or it could be due to restoration druids using the Glyph for shady trading deals (HA! Get it? Tree druids? Shady trading?). Despite giving a raid member a pretty worthless amount of mana, it's mana nonetheless. I believe the estimated figures were roughly over 5k, possibly a bit more, per cast? Even at that, you should be able to get three or four casts per encounter off. 15 to 20k mana over an entire encounter is decent enough; your rogues certainly are doing that.
Pissing off the competition
Let's be real here: No one actually likes shadow priests. Warlocks only kind of pretend to get along with them now because of Dark Intent, although they would gladly stab them (or anyone) in the back, given the opportunity. Mages? They're always crying about shadow priests taking their gear and using spirit cloth for DPS. (Then again, that's not new; when aren't mages crying?)
Balance druids, though -- we don't actually hate anyone. I love shadow priests! Honest, really, I do. I love beating them in DPS. I love taking Dark Intent from them because it's better on me during AOE. I love that mages shower me with Focus Magic -- although I'm still trying to figure out that one, but I'm sure somehow this pisses off shadow priests for some reason. See, I'm all about the love. It's just that for some reason, the fact that I'm better seems to upset them. Perhaps it's jealousy? Insecurity? I don't really know.
Every week, Shifting Perspectives: Balance brings you druidic truth, beauty and insight ... from a moonkin's perspective. We'll help you level your brand new balance druid, tweak your UI and your endgame gear, analyze balance racials and abilities, and even walk you through PvP as a balance druid.