Welcome back, my little space turkeys. It's been a fun couple of weeks here recently with all sorts of nothing announced for us. Despite Blizzard's new plan to be speedy like the rabbit, it doesn't quite seem to have gotten a handle on what that actually means. Information about the next patch in slow in the making, and all that we have gotten so far hasn't really been of any use to us here in constantly-in-the-shape-of-a-fat-mutant-chicken-form-land. Shouldn't complain, I suppose. It could be worse -- it could be raining. Oh wait ... it is raining.
This week, in light of the dreary New England mood that's been permeating my area for the past few days, we'll be going over some of the common mistakes that balance druids make (and sometimes those who think they know balance druids). I'm not entirely sure how the weather is related to this topic, but I promise you, the correlation is there. Prepare for a mildly exciting read that's also rather informative -- like a science textbook only better, and it doesn't cost you several hundred dollars.
Mistake: After haste, what do I stack?
This is the reason that I carry a feral staff around. Some people seem to think it's because I want to tank stuff or something, but that's totally not it. I have it so I can whomp people on the head if they start talking about haste break points like they matter. This point has come up several times in several articles, but I still get constant emails from people asking what they should gear for once they reach some certain haste amount.
Here's your answer: Stack more haste.
Did I mention haste? Because you could always also stack some more haste. Then of course, there's haste; it's pretty good too, so you can choose to stack it if you want. Haste, haste, haste, haste. I think I'm going to turn the word into an entire language.
Look guys, haste stacks upon haste for balance druids. Gaining an extra tick on a DOT is neat and all, but it just doesn't have this magical effect on our damage that you think it will. Keep stacking that haste. We are rather locked into the rotation that we use. Eclipse is based off of a specific number of spells, no matter how fast you do it. Since we can't change the number, we want to change the speed. Faster Eclipse cycles mean a higher Nature's Grace uptime, and it means a higher Eclipsed DOT uptime with fewer refreshes. Haste is always good, no matter how much of it that you have.
Mistake: OM NOM NOM mana regeneration!
No, you really don't have to toss all of your points into frivolous mana regeneration. I know that it seems a point of concern that Blizzard handed us all these ways of allowing us to either conserve mana or regenerate more of it, but you just don't have to pick up that much of it. Euphoria is more than enough for all of your needs. You'll have enough spare points for Dreamstate, so you should get that as well.
Generally, you don't need to Innervate yourself, but you can if you spend several minutes in Solar, which happens from time to time depending on the encounter. It also helps if you ever die out in the world.
Mistake: Starfall, an amazing AOE ability
The number of balance druids who seem to think this seem to be dropping every day, but there are still tons of non-balance druids who seem to believe Starfall is some massively amazing AOE ability who need to be slapped in the face. Back when we first got Starfall in Wrath, it was actually a really poor spell that was barely even worth pressing most of the time. After numerous tweaks, Starfall was made into a real damage cooldown that could actually deal damage, one of the highlights being some relatively strong AOE damage.
Starfall never did high AOE damage because of the innate spell itself; it did ridiculous AOE damage because each star that landed had a rather large splash radius that dealt about half-damage to every other target in the area. This splash damage was a huge amount of damage, once added up. You also got a bonus in that the primary target splashed itself.
Great as all of that was, Starfall no longer has that splash effect; it was completely removed in Cataclysm. All Starfall does is hit two random targets every second for moderate levels of damage. It might feel like AOE because, wow, you hit two targets, but it really isn't, and it really doesn't deal that much damage.
Ideally, Starfall doesn't even gain any damage against two targets over one anymore. A few patches back, Blizzard changed it so that Starfall drops a single star every half-second instead of two stars every second. All this change would do would be to allow Starfall to target the same creature with every single star, since before, two stars couldn't hit the same target at the same time. As with the "Starfall will not target enemies outside of combat" change, I'm not entirely sure this one is actually working.
Mistake: GIMME GNOME DWUIDS!!!
Gnomes would never make adorable druids, and shame on all of you for saying otherwise. No, I don't want a stupid cub or kitten form. Restoration druids won't get twig form or whatever other nonsense you think. First, it's rather clear that the act of shapeshifting allows the druid to gain considerable amounts of mass -- I mean, Trolls don't exactly weigh anything near that of a massive bear -- and while the difference between a Troll and a Gnome seems large, in comparison to a bear it's a fairly minor difference.
Second, no one actually wants to play a Gnome. They're hideous, not to mention possibly the most useless race in all of WoW. Their home city is taken over by short, ugly worthless creatures that mid-level characters swat away with ease, yet they utterly fail at taking it back. Look, Trolls managed to take back their island -- Gnomes couldn't manage to get their small city? We can talk about their being druids when they become worthy of the title.
Refreshing your DOTs the moment that you get an Eclipse proc is a huge no-no -- besides which, why would you even want to when going from Solar to Lunar? That's just silly. Anyway, the largest goal of the balance rotation is to deal damage. The second goal is to have fun. Third is something about morality that we never really pay attention to, but the forth goal is to complete each Eclipse cycle as quickly as possible. You want to have Eclipsed DOTs up as much as possible, but you want to cast DOTs as infrequently as you can. There is only two times you should ever be overwriting your DOTs.
First, if you're moving and replacing Eclipsed DOTs with Eclipsed DOTs or short-length Eclipsed DOTs with non-Eclipsed DOTs, don't drop Eclipse and instantly replace your DOTs because you had to take two steps. The second time is if you're leaving an Eclipse and your DOT will fall off before you reach the next Eclipse. Ideally, this should occur rather infrequently, but also only during Solar.
Another thing: Don't toss out DOTs right as you enter an Eclipse. Even when it comes to a Solar Eclipse, there's a split second between the Starfire landing and the Eclipse buff's actually becoming active. If you immediately use a DOT after your last Starfire, that DOT won't gain the benefits of that Eclipse. The same is also true of using Shooting Stars procs; worse, they'll still eat your Eclipse energy as well.
Mistake: Using trash to start boss fights in Solar
You actually don't want to try and abuse trash so that you can start inside of a Solar Eclipse. Don't get me wrong, you want to abuse trash -- just not like that or like that other way you're thinking.
You actually want to start a single Starfire away from a Solar Eclipse instead of directly inside of the Eclipse. Why? Glad you asked, it's a funny story, really ... well, not actually funny at all. Really, it's because of Nature's Grace. By being outside of Eclipse, you can use DOTs to get Nature's Grace up at the start of the encounter. Then you can refresh Nature's Grace just before leaving Eclipse by throwing out a new set of DOTs. You gain a huge boost to Nature's Grace uptime this way while retaining pretty much the exact same amount of damage overall.
Mistake: Balance druids have great control
Balance druids have tons of control tools, it's true; sadly, they don't quite work out as well in PVE as they do in PVP. Strange to say that, I know, but there are some very good reasons for it.
First, Fungal Growth. Even though it has a ridiculously short cooldown and can create the largest slowing field in the game, we have to use Wild Mushrooms for damage. You see, Wild Mushrooms also just happen to be the strongest AOE damage ability in the game, too, so using them for control is something of a waste. Balance druids should be chosen last for control purposes, instead you want them for damage.
If you are in a situation where you have to make use of Fungal Growth, then try and eke out as much damage from it as you can. Although you can use all three mushrooms to slow with, generally you should only need two. Plant two on top of the mobs and one outside of them to extend the Fungal Growth field. If they survive long enough to make it out, Wild Mushroom should be off cooldown again. You can also Typhoon most mobs back onto the slowing field.
Speaking of Typhoon, people tend to grossly overexaggerate how far the knockback really is. On encounters such as Ragnaros, where people get all uppity over the fact that we actually have a knockback, what players really aren't realizing is that it isn't any more control than a single stun. Typhoon is only going to buy you maybe an extra 2 or 3 seconds from most mobs. It depends on if they can be slowed by the daze or not. The real reason that it's so awesome is because it doesn't have a DR like real stuns do, plus the cooldown is short and it can hit multiple targets.
Last comes Solar Beam. I love Solar Beam. In heroic dungeons, it is perhaps one of the best stuns in the game right now. Sadly, Blizzard seems to think that Solar Beam might be a little bit too powerful in most PVE encounters and has taken measures to make sure it's all but useless. A majority of mobs you'll encounter in raids are actually immune to the silence. For trash mobs, it seems you're about 50/50 on whether you can silence them or not; on boss fights, it's a pure no-go. You can still use Solar Beam to interrupt casts, but the actual beam itself that's left over won't do a thing to them. Maybe give them a nice tan.
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.