Early on in the week, Blizzard started threads in each of the class forums on the official website asking for players to provide feedback regarding their classes and specs in preparation for 4.3 and the next expansion. For any of you who have not yet posted, I highly encourage you to go do so. No matter how late it may seem or how buried among the pages your post might end up, Blizzard representatives will be reading those threads, and it is the absolute best opportunity for you to let the development team know how it is you feel. They expected that these threads would grow to a vast size; they're prepared to handle the volume of feedback and report their findings.
I, too, have posted in that thread, stating what it is I think and feel about balance druids. In doing so, however, I felt that I was rather limited by the system in which I was posting. Writing for balance druids every week, it's obvious that I've got a lot to say about the spec, so attempting to cram all those thoughts into a condensed forum post was difficult. This week, I'd like to take the opportunity to expand upon the feedback I provided, and invite you once again to go and leave your own.
Quality of life issues
One of the first questions as was in regards to quality of life changes that we would like to see for our class or spec. In terms of druids overall, our mechanics work rather well. The only major issue that any non-restoration druid really faces in terms of generalized mechanics is Rebirth. Rebirth forces the druid to de-shift out of any form they are currently in. For any non-restoration druid, this is something of a pain. It isn't a major concern, save maybe for bear druids, but it's the type of light quality of life change that would be swell to see implemented.
Specific to balance, the only issue in this category that I have is with Moonkin Form itself. I know that this is a topic I've brought up a few times recently, but it is the only quality of life change that I really see balance druids needing. Moonkin Form should be a choice, nothing more, nothing less. Given the recent history on this matter, I won't spend too much time on it, but here's the long and short of it.
Druids, as a class, are not specifically about shapeshifting. We're about nature magic, living in the natural world, and protecting that balance which we have. The original shapeshifting forms were either utility forms such as Travel or Aquatic, and class-changing forms with Cat and Bear. Balance and restoration druids did not shift in these times, instead having shapeshifting function as an auxiliary form of utility. Across other games where we see druids, this same path is true; druids often had three ways in which they could specialize. A druid could specialize in shapeshifting combat, battle magic combat or healing.
Balance druids focused solely on battle magic, using our natural ties to nature in order to repel back those who would upset the balance. It wasn't until the introduction of Moonkin Form that this changed. I don't want to see Moonkin Form be totally destroyed, there are those who do like the it, yet there needs to be options for those that would rather not shapeshift. Some of us would rather remain as we are and be a battle mage focused on nature magic. All I ask for is choice, nothing more, nothing less.
PVE issues - Eclipse
Beyond the quality of life changes, the next questions dealt with how the spec or class functions overall. In this, I have a few concerns about balance. Notably, Eclipse is still a rather flawed system. To be fair, the current implementation of Eclipse is lightyears ahead of where we were in the last expansion, to compare the two systems now is simply silly. Eclipse has changed and we're the better for it. Be that as it may, the system itself is far from perfect.
First is the issue of damage disparity. Eclipse is extremely powerful, and it continues to grow even more powerful as we gather stronger gear. The difference in damage and a druid with an Eclipse proc can deal in respects to one without an Eclipse proc is baffling. I poised this question to the development team all the way back during Beta; what are we to do when the Eclipse bonus is over 50%? 60%? When a balance druids have such wild swings in their damage potential, overall balance is difficult to achieve.
Balancing Eclipse for rote PVE content isn't difficult in the least, but this game consists of far more than basic Patchwerk styled raid encounters. There's leveling, PVP, small group damage, and a slew of things inbetween that have to be considered as well. In many ways, our damage just isn't balanced enough between the two extremes for Eclipse to remain as it is. We simply aren't capable of dealing enough damage outside of Eclipse to warrant situations where we can tolerate that state for long – we must be in Eclipse for without it we just aren't up to par.
This glaring gap in parity between the two extremes has forced balance druids into a number of playstyles which are counter productive; the most obvious being the issue of sitting in Solar Eclipse. Whether it be for PVP or AOE purposes, balance druids love to sit in a Solar Eclipse, and why shouldn't we? Both of our DOTs gain a huge advantage in damage, becoming the strongest DOTs in the game, while our strongest AOE ability is made even more powerful in the process. Further, remaining in a Solar Eclipse allows for our burst damage to be significantly higher as well. The downside to sitting in a Solar Eclipse is that there is no downside.
Blizzard has attempted to correct this issue, going so far as to utterly destroy the Lunar Shower talent, yet nothing has come of it. No matter what changes Blizzard might make now, they can't solve the issue of balance druids sitting in a Solar Eclipse because the issue is apart of Eclipse itself. There is no simple fix because the problem itself isn't simple. Make no mistake, Eclipse is far better now than it ever has been, and I am grateful for that, but that does not mean that the system is perfect. Eclipse is still flawed in the most basic of ways, and these flaws need to be addressed in the next expansion.
PVE issues - movement
With the aforementioned destruction of the Lunar Shower talent, there were also some unforeseen consequences. Lunar Shower wasn't just the heart of balance druid movement DPS, it was our movement DPS. Without Lunar Shower, we had nothing else. Once upon a time, movement was merely a time to refresh DOTs, you move, you cast a DOT. Now, however, that just doesn't work any more. Why? Eclipse.
Overwriting an Eclipsed DOT with an unEclipsed DOT is painful. Unless that DOT was already close to falling off, a majority of the time the re-write isn't even worth it. That's forced us into a situation where now we don't even have the most basic of movement DPS tools to work with. Instead, we now have to rely on Wild Mushroom to be our movement DPS. While certainly workable, and actually not terrible in terms of movement damage, the mechanics of it are rather quite clunky. I'm all for adding in skill to a rotation, but utilizing Wild Mushroom on the fly while moving out of something terrible, and possibly with a boss also moving, it all gets rather tricky and far more a mess than it should be.
The next expansion is a great way to solve this issue. We are well past any easy solutions at this point. Changing Lunar Shower back to how it was would only be a moderate fix as there's still DOT overwriting issues to contend with. Balance needs a new tool, something that we can use on the move that isn't apart of our normal rotation but is worth using when there's nothing else to use. With each expansion comes new abilities, new talents, it's the perfect time to give balance what we need.
One matter that I wasn't able to address in my post was issues surrounding PVP. Truth be told, there's a lot working for balance PVP yet there's just as much fighting against it. It'd be easy to dedicate an entire article to nothing but PVP fixes, yet here all I can do is hope to brush the surface of it. One key element lacking in balance PVP is one of mobility. Mobility was once the highlight of druid PVP in general. We were the most mobile class in the game, it's what made us good.
The problem was that strength, though. Because druids traditionally always held such great mobility, Blizzard never actually focused on it when rebalancing the classes. Why would they? It was already quite powerful, what as there to change? Unfortunately, other classes had much weaker mobility, and Blizzard sought to change that. While druid mobility itself hasn't much changed since Vanilla, the sheer fact that it hasn't is a problem in of itself. We remained the same while other classes gained vast amounts more. The comparable buffs to our weaknesses just hasn't panned out in keeping up.
Defensive capabilities has long been a flaw for balance druids, we're simply too squishy. This is because our primary defense has always been our ability to escape, yet with the gigantic leap in uptime that many other classes have seen, that system of defense just isn't working any more. Balance druids need to reclaim their mobility. You can buff other parts of our defense, sure, but it'd mostly just result in passive styled buffs that feel flavorless. We want style, we want to remain unique, and the one thing that once made us unique hasn't been kept up to date. Balance druids should be the masters of hit-and-run tactics that have a means of escaping from nearly any situation. Where's those abilities?
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.