Last week, we talked about the fine art of gaming Eclipse, annoying as it might be. To play a balance druid is an excessively fun experience; to try and deal chart topping damage as one is going to leave you pulling out your hair. Although the so-called "skill cap" for balance is prohibitively high, never let it discourage you from actually playing the spec.
Getting getting to the high damage part of the spec takes some work, but after time it becomes second nature; tweaking Eclipse to work for you just becomes a habit that you do without thinking. That aside, this week we'll be getting into what's honestly the best part of playing as balance.
AOE takes just as much work as balance, but it's a fun type of work and comes with a really sweet pay off. Balance has some of the strongest sustained AOE in the game; now you can enjoy it too.
The first golden rule
First and foremost, you absolutely must have the gaming part of Eclipse down. It's the terrible part of playing balance where it really feels as though the class is working against you, but in this case you really cannot avoid it. The reason that this is paramount to AOE success is because you have to be in a Solar Eclipse for AOE. Period. No Exception.
Not being in a Solar Eclipse any time that you try and tackle multiple mobs is going to result in significantly less DPS. How significant? In the ballpark of 10,000 DPS, and that's only if you happen to be in a Lunar Eclipse. It gets worse if you aren't in any Eclipse at all. Whatever you do, make sure that you are in a Solar Eclipse for AOE.
Seriously, do whatever it takes. Right now, balance is in an alright place for this because running around and spamming Sunfire, even on a single target, doesn't yield horrible DPS. In fact, it's rather good DPS. This will slightly change in the upcoming patch, but more on that will come later.
Either way, it doesn't matter. There's virtually nothing that you can do where not holding onto Eclipse wouldn't be higher DPS. You can pretty much sit there and dance for 10 seconds and you'd still be better off than if you can continued on with your rotation and lost that Eclipse. It really is that important to be in Solar.
A wild mushroom appears!
Wild Mushroom has been a controversial spell of sorts. When it was released back in beta, all of us scoffed at it to the point that the entire purpose of the spell ended up being a question back at last year's BlizzCon. Blizzard's answer at the time -- that it held a great tool for feral druid tanks to get initial AOE threat -- was mocked by the community, and for good reason. Turns out, Blizzard wasn't too happy with that answer either and since then it's been turned into a power house of an AOE spell.
Wild Mushroom is our mainstay AOE ability now, no question about it. Forget Hurricane, forget Sunfire and Insect Swarm, it's all about mushrooms now. There's still quite a bit of resentment within the populace about mushrooms though. To that end, I can only say one thing that's probably offensive and slightly unprofessional.
Get over it.
We have Wild Mushroom now, it's our spell, it's our AOE, and it's entirely workable. Using the targeting reticule system can seem clunky at first, and everyone will do anything in their power to try and avoid it, but it honestly is not nearly as bad as players make it out to be.
If you use a gaming mouse, I highly suggest that you bind planting mushrooms to one of your easy to reach mouse keys. This will make dropping mushrooms a snap. Even without one -- I personally don't use one -- a standard keybind is all that you need. Nothing fancy, honest, mine's just bound to 6. Spend just five minutes worth of practice plopping them down and you'll never think twice about it again.
Know how to grow a forest
Using Wild Mushroom on cooldown, every cooldown is the goal to strive for. You don't want to wait for Detonate to be available again to start dropping mushrooms, they need to already be down. Ideally, you want to drop them right after your last explosion so you have less to worry about in terms of tracking, realistically this isn't going to happen.
AOE targets in this tier move, and they move frequently. Adds are almost never going to be clumped together all nice and neat to where they aren't going to move. This makes planning for Wild Mushroom a little bit difficult because you can't know where the adds are going to end up next.
The best that you can do is to have something -- such as Power Auras -- that will put a large tracking timer for Detonate on display for you. Once you see that the spell is about to be up, then start dropping mushrooms and explode them as soon as you can.
If timers aren't your thing, there is another way: counting. There's a 10-second cooldown on Detonate, so after six or seven Sunfire casts, you know that you need to start dropping mushrooms. Normally I'm not a fan of mental tracking, but this one is actually pretty easy to do and it can save screen space for crowded UIs. It's also a great alternative for those that don't, or can't, run lots of of add-ons.
While Wild Mushroom is now our strongest AOE ability that we have, Sunfire and Insect Swarm are still an extremely important part of it as well. You want your DOTs rolling on as many targets as possible. In many cases, this is far easier said than done.
Using the basic UI, multi-DOTing is probably the hardest thing that you are ever going to do. In fact, there is no real way to be spectacular at it using the default UI. Anyone that can make it work is either a god-like prodigy that doesn't need to read this -- or any guide -- or is beyond lucky. There just isn't a solid way of tracking which targets currently have DOTs on them without actually selecting them, and by then you've already wasted too much time.
No solid way of tracking, that is, without Tidy Plates, an essential addon when it comes to playing a balance druid. It's a clean, smooth addition to the basic UI that makes enemy health bars much prettier and informative. Further, the Threat Plates extension to Tidy Plates offers two valuable tools. The first is obvious to the name: Each enemy name plate will be color coded for threat using a basic green, yellow, red set up that should be second nature to anyone over the age of 16. (Although, in this case, yellow doesn't mean speed up in hopes that you can catch the light before it hits red.) The second, more important option is that it adds a neat little debuff tracker on top of each plate. This makes it super easy to know in a split second which mob you need to DOT next. Does it have a cute little Sunfire icon on the plate? No? Sunfire it!
Not all DOTs are created equal
Sadly, we live in a pretty unfair world. Azeroth isn't really big on the whole equality thing and this tends to leave a few spells by the wayside. In this case, that happens to be Insect Swarm. Our pesky little buggers are a great spell, but they simply don't have the same punch that Sunfire has.
It is very common to see players put both of their DOTs on a single target, then move on to the next one. Sadly, this is not really the way to go. It works, and if that's what you want to do, then by all means keep doing it. There's just two issues with it.
First, and again, Sunfire deals quite a bit more damage than insect Swarm does. This means that it's more important to have Sunfire rolling on every target as soon as possible as opposed to having both DOTS rolling on every target. Ideally, you do want both DOTs on every target, but sadly it probably won't work out that way due to also needing to use Wild Mushroom. Prioritize Sunfire first, then go back and Insect Swarm.
Second is a bit more of a selfish reason, but not entirely, I swear! Given that we are relying on DOTs for our damage, we want to get the most amount of ticks out of every cast that we do. Two DOTs on a single target is going to kill that target faster than two DOTs on two different targets would. It's a silly little thing that doesn't make much of a difference, yet it all adds up in the end.
By spreading DOTs around in this way, each individual target takes longer to die, but the damage is spread more equally across all of the targets. This allows you to get the most use of out each DOT that you cast and lessen the time you have where you've killed the entire pack save the one or two left over mob.
The coming Lunar Shower change
I know what some people are thinking, "But Murmurs! With the change to Lunar Shower in 4.2, we won't be able to spam Sunfire any more. Your AOE rotation is dead!" No Silly Billy, that's not true at all.
You can still spam Sunfire all you want and not lose a Solar Eclipse, you just can't benefit from Lunar Shower at the same time. Given that there's such a huge DPS difference between being in a Solar Eclipse and not being in one, guess which of the two doesn't make the cut. If you guessed Asher Roth, you're right ... if this was America's Got Talent. For balance druids, it's Lunar Shower.
Come 4.2, you've got two options; either take Lunar Shower but avoid stacking it during AOE encounters, or just don't take Lunar Shower. Honestly, you aren't missing out of much of anything by going with the latter option. Should you choose to try and game LS though, you've got a few ways to do it.
As of right now, you can still use a macro to simply get rid of the Lunar Shower buff whenever you don't want it. Merely use the following macro to rid yourself of the vile evil that is seeping into our talents:
Totally simple, right? The other alternative, should Blizzard ever break that one, isn't quite as user friendly. The new Lunar Shower doesn't stack based on movement, but instead each time you cast Sunfire. Lunar Shower also only lasts for a measly three seconds. See where this is going?
/cancelaura Lunar Shower
That's right! You can have the joy of doing silly, asinine things in order to avoid stacking Lunar Shower when you don't want to. After each Sunfire, you can cast some Insect Swarms, plant some mushrooms, use Shooting Stars procs, pretty much anything you want other than cast Sunfire again. Once the buff drops, you're free to cast another Sunfire ... and then wait for the buff to drop again.
Honestly, just skip the talent.
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.