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Shifting Perspectives: Balance druids at lower gear levels

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat , bear , restoration and balance druids. Balance news comes at you every Friday -- learn how to master the forces of nature, and know what it means to be a giant laser turkey! Send questions, comments, or something you'd like to see to tyler@wowinsider.com.

Druids, moonkin, nature'y folk, lend me your antlers! Did you know I once actually played the part of Marc Antony? I was downright terrible at it. Not that I'm a good actor, besides, but that part in particular was way out of character.

Another out-of-character thing for me to do is not continue with what I had originally set out to do. PTR information is light this week, and while I would like to go back and finish talking about how to read your World of Log parses, I received a particularly interesting email that I thought was best to address right away.

I promise, promise that I will return to World of Log parses, because I know that you all love numbers as much as I do, right -- but for this week, we'll take a bit of break from all the deep, mathy stuff. Remember, if you have any questions that you would like to have answered, don't hesitate to email me about them! I'm always happy to help, and if I can't answer it in an email, you never know, it might just turn into a whole article. Wouldn't that be nice?
Hi Tyler,

I'm not a pro, but not exactly a noob to WoW either. I have a raiding priest healer at 2/7 hc in Firelands and recently levelled a Boomkin, but now at 85 I realise that my dps is ... well... not so great. I have been reading your column regularly for the past few months, as well as Elitist Jerks, and it's all very helpful but I'm still not doing good dps.

My druid isn't a raider so many of the tips don't apply, or maybe I'm just ignorant? For example, using trash to manage eclipse is a bit pointless when 90% of what you're fighting *is* trash, and even boss fights rarely last longer than 2 minutes or so. But even on Occu'thar I only manage about 15-17k dps, and with a gear level of over 360 I'm running out of excuses. I'm hit capped and follow the usual reforging advice, my gear is gemmed and enchanted etc.

When I refresh my DoTs after eclipse (Insect Swarm first so Moon/Sunfire will benefit from Nature's Grace) and then keep nuking, I always run out of DoTs 2-5 nukes before reaching the next Eclipse. Is it worth refreshing them, only to refresh them again after Eclipse? What about when the mob is going to die within the next 10 seconds anyway?

On fast-dying trash, is it even worth it to put both DoTs up? What about a trash pack of say, 3 mobs, do I multi-DoT them all?

My bane is movement. Is Moon/Sunfire spam the only option? What if I have an eclipsed Sunfire on a boss and have just left eclipse, and now I need to move around. Will I overwrite the eclipsed DoT for the sake of continuing to dps? Right now I don't, but my results make me doubtful if that's the right thing to do.

Apologies if you've already written a column on that subject. If you have, I'd be grateful for a link! I did scroll back through your entries, but I might have overlooked something.

Fantastic questions, all of them. There are a few things that I have written on the subject, but to find them all might require a good deal of digging around about in multiple articles that would probably answer more things than it needs to. The truth is that the balance rotation changes relatively little with gear, although we do see some surprising DPS jumps at certain points. Mostly, things boil down to the content that you run.
Balance druids in dungeons

First and foremost, I want to mention that balance druids aren't generally the best small instance spec that you could have. Certain specs just work better in certain situations. Arcane mages, for example, are fantastic in instances. In a raid, they rely on periods of extremely high burst followed by lower, more mana-conservative bouts. In a 5-man, a mage can pretty much ignore the lower-end DPS parts of their rotation because all of the encounters are over relatively quickly.

Sadly, balance druids are almost the exact opposite of arcane mages. We rely heavily on our DOTs, and our damage swings, while just as powerful, are much more rapid and frequent. The way you play balance in a small group setting is rather different then how you play in a larger, longer raid encounter, but the payoff you're going to get isn't nearly as good. Balance druids aren't bad or anything, but your damage isn't going to be chart breaking.

Quick and dirty solutions

Fast-dying trash is a problem for balance druids because, sadly, we just don't have many great options. Casting through to Eclipse isn't a great solution. You'll have very high-damage periods when threat can still be sketchy if you start out with a strong Eclipse, even with the recent threat changes. On the other hand, without Eclipse, your damage is going to be well below par, and it just takes far too long to build up anything. DOTs, too, don't really offer a good solution because nothing really lasts long enough for them to tick out.

They are, however, the best option that you have. Sunfire is the stronger of our two DOTs, and it's the one that you want to focus on getting up on every target that you can first, but it shouldn't be the initial spell in your arsenal. Wild Mushrooms is a fantastic ability, and much as in Wrath, the prospects of what constitutes as AOE has changed. Even against three mobs, Wild Mushrooms offer a great deal of damage that you should certainly take advantage of. Not only that, but it will also apply Earth and Moon, which is a great damage increaser for yourself and other casters in the party.

Once Mushrooms are on cooldown, then you can go about applying Sunfire to the remainder of the targets. At that point, evaluate how things are going. If most of the mobs are at low health, then don't even both with Insect Swarm; instead, just focus on using Starfire on the lowest-health target and move on down the line. If you still have a few mobs up with significant enough health, then you can go about applying Insect Swarm to them. Should the opportunity present itself, use Wild Mushrooms again, but only if there are still at least three mobs active at the time.

If you are below the point of having Wild Mushroom, your options are slightly more limited, though essentially the same. Still lead with Sunfire, following that into Insect Swarm, finishing it all off with Starfiring all that remains. This doesn't produce extremely high levels of damage, but rather, it offers a good average stream of damage that is consistent for every trash pull, instead of being a constant up-and-down wave where you excel at one pack then flounder on the next.
When to refresh your DOTs

DOT refreshing is a pretty tricky mechanic. Most of how your DOT refreshes work is going to rely upon your haste values, which provides a much higher spike in DPS than any silly little tick break point. Ideally, you never want to have unEclipsed DOTs ticking at any given time. Even with the best of gear with as much haste you can get, you won't keep a single set of DOTs ticking from one Eclipse to the next -- even on Alysrazor, where you can have a 1-second Wrath, this isn't possible if you apply DOTs first thing inside of Eclipse. Instead, you'll have to refresh over already ticking DOTs.

Since what you're shooting for it to never have unEclipsed DOTs ticking, you should only cast over your DOTs if they're not going to make it to the next Eclipse. Unless your balance druid is your main character that you play incessently (or you're just a timing wizard), you probably won't know this off the top of your head just by looking. The general rule of thumb that's best to follow is that DOTs under 10 seconds probably aren't going to make it. The good news is that you should be able to catch Nature's Grace for your second round of DOTs anyway.

On the other matter, no, it usually isn't all that worth it to place non-Eclipsed DOTs if you're but a cast or two away from an Eclipse. In that situation, you would have to wait out the entire length of the DOT duration for the casts to be worth it, which is significantly going to cut into your Eclipsed DOT uptime. Going into a Lunar Eclipse also probably means that you'll be forced into clipping them anyway.

If a mob is going to die in a short time, DOTs are a little bit trickier. Insect Swarm usually isn't worth it on short-lasting mobs, although Moonfire/Sunfire certainly is. There isn't a massively huge damage disparity between the two spells -- a lot of what you see if due to players favoring Moonfire over Insect Swarm -- but the direct damage of Moonfire slightly mitigates the need for the whole DOT to tick out in order to see a DPS gain. Unless you absolutely have to, though, you're probably better off sticking to your nukes, especially if you aren't in an Eclipse.

How to handle movement

Last, there's movement, which sadly is the bane of every balance druid's existence after the change to Lunar Shower. Balance druids have honestly never been all that spectacular at movement-heavy encounters, even all the back when Lunar Shower was a great talent to have. It was stronger than we were an expansion ago, to be sure, but it wasn't near the damage potential of our actual rotation. The only reason that balance druids saw the support that we did for movement DPS was due to the type of movement encounters that we came across.

Short movement has never been great for balance druids. Even if you do have Lunar Shower, it takes a while for the damage to stack up to be worth casting at all, especially because of the new cost associated. Currently, the best short-term movement solution is to cast Wild Mushroom, since exploding them doesn't require the use of a GCD and can be done in Solar, where you get a rather significant damage boost. It isn't a very pretty solution, and it's one that is rather challenging to get the hand of initially. Chances are that if you don't have a balance druid main that you practice this on constantly, you won't get it down to the art form that it requires.

It's nearly never worth it to write over Eclipsed DOTs with unEclipsed DOTs unless you'll be moving for a significant amount of time. Even then, you want to try and limit your overwrite to Moonfire as much as you possibly can. Unless Insect Swarm is about to completely tick out or will tick out before you reach the next Eclipse, you want to avoid writing over it at all. Again, it is best to fall back to Wild Mushroom if you can. Drop three of them, explode them if you must, and drop three more before you resort to overwriting Eclipsed DOTs.

Movement is a major issue for balance druids at the moment. While I wouldn't expect Blizzard to address this within this expansion, as should be rather obvious, we can hope that it will do something in the next. Then again, that always does seem to be the case, doesn't it?

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.

Filed under: Druid, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives

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