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Shifting Perspectives: Retaining key talents in Pandaria

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 requests for something you'd like to see to tyler@wowinsider.com or on Twitter @murmursofadruid.

Welcome back to another week, my favorite space turkeys. This week is one of those that I happen to detest and often wish that we could find a way to remove the from the calendar; alas, I've been told that this isn't possible. Next week is a holiday, and the next patch is expected the week thereafter, leaving this week simmering in nothing but anticipation. As anyone will tell you, I'm not a patient person.

Still, that doesn't mean that we're all dead in the water. True to form, I'll be putting a spot of my predictive powers to work. It'll be the last topic about Pandaria for a while, I promise you that, but this one is important to lay some groundwork. All of our talents are going away -- a great idea in theory. However, the problem comes in that some talents are important to keeping the spec engaging. Merely shuttling them off to the nether isn't an option; some will have to be baked into the class as a whole. But which? Let's speculate!

Things too big to fail

The first talent that sticks out to me is rather a black sheep. Starlight Wrath will be going away, as all talents will, but we can be certain that it will be baked into the specialization benefits of going balance. It is also possible that Blizzard might also just lower the spells' cast times at the base level, though this seems more unlikely. Spell cast times are actually a lot more finicky that people think; despite their following a very specific formula for cast time to spellpower ratio, this doesn't allow for perfect scaling on its own.

Merely getting rid of the talent isn't an option, either. Cast times are fairly important, not just for scaling issues but also for PvP. Increasing our Wrath and Starfire casts by .5 seconds would be a huge blow to our ability to cast.

It all seems rather commonsense. Starlight Wrath isn't going anywhere; the issue is merely how will we still be getting it. I would place my money on its becoming a balance specialization, as I said, but it's possible that we could get it in a different method. Either way, it's staying.

Active abilities

For the next two talents, we will jump from the top all the way down to the bottom. We might know that Force of Nature is going to become a shared talent among all the specs, but Starfall isn't. I don't feel that any real explanation is needed. Starfall is a fairly signature spell for us. It is one of the few cooldowns we actually have, and it would just be a damn shame for Blizzard to remove it; thus, it won't. Starfall will become a base spell for all balance druids. I'd expect to get it sometime within The Burning Crusade level range.

Quickly moving on, in similar fashion, I wouldn't expect Sunfire to go anywhere either, although this talent is a little bit more iffy than Starfall. Sunfire is a key spell for balance druids, but only because Moonfire is currently designed to be our primary movement DPS tool. Sunfire only exists because back in beta, we pointed out that Eclipse only boosted the damage of Moonfire during Lunar, which meant that our movement DPS was horrible during a majority of our rotation. Correcting this was merely a matter of making Moonfire deal nature damage during a Solar Eclipse -- thus, Sunfire.

This does not mean that Sunfire has to remain, though. It is widely agreed that Moonfire has been a failure of a movement DPS tool. Not only that, but Lunar Shower, the talent designed to make Moonfire into such a tool, isn't even a part of most balance druid's talent choices anymore. This means that Blizzard has to do something for our movement DPS -- look at all the amazing movement DPS talents that mages and warlocks have access to next expansion -- but this doesn't mean that Moonfire is going to remain the solution. Without Moonfire being our movement damage, there isn't really a point of retaining Sunfire.

Personally, I would be sad to see the bright, orange beam of melee blindness get tossed aside, but Sunfire has been causing more issues than it has solved at this point. I'm putting it at a good 50/50 on whether or not Sunfire stays in the bag as another ability given to balance druids. It's possible, but it's also just as logical to toss it out.

While we're in the nature of talking about abilities that we'll be keeping, I would guess that Solar Beam is also going to be staying in the mix. It's a powerful ability on paper, but it's only been so-so in practice. Still, that hasn't prevented the spell from being excessively useful in a wide number of ways. I love Solar Beam, and it's our only access to a caster interrupt, which we desperately need. No, Solar Beam won't be going anywhere.

Passive abilities

Those are all active abilities, at least in some sense, so it's only reasonable that they would remain as part of the spec. After all, signature abilities define the spec for what it is; however, there are also some rather important passive abilities that are integral to the spec as a whole.

First, Earth and Moon. While the talent itself isn't all that important, the effect that it has still is. Blizzard hasn't said that it is removing the spell damage debuff from the table, and balance is currently one out of only three specs that are capable of bringing it (technically, two specs and a class). Limiting access to such an important debuff isn't something that Blizzard would be very keen on; expect for Earth and Moon to make its way into our skill list in some form.

Balance of Power is another key talent that simply cannot be removed at this point. Blizzard hates creating gear that is only useful to a very specific pool of players, and DPS caster leather fits that bill to a T. In the past, the solution to this was merely to not create leather tailored toward our needs, which usually left us stealing cloth gear instead (another thing that Blizzard wasn't all that thrilled with). The conversion of spirit into hit was the grand solution to all these problems.

While there have been a few missteps about this design, none of them had anything to do with balance druids. Shadow priests cause something of an issue in having it as well, but spirit leather is our only gearing option. While hit for us was more plentiful than it was for other casters, we had the opposite problem that they did; far too much of our gear had hit on it, usually resulting in our reforging some off. It would be a moot argument to make anyway. Blizzard isn't going to start designing caster leather with hit on it; the conversion from spirit to hit is going to stay.

Mana regeneration

While we are on the notion of passive tools that aren't going anywhere, I wouldn't expect for our current mana regeneration system to be changed all that much either. Our current mana regeneration scheme of Euphoria isn't what I would call perfect, but it is certainly functional and has been one of the few methods that Blizzard has actually seemed pleased with. At this point in time, I would expect for Blizzard to keep Euphoria, but I am strangely unsure about this choice.

Euphoria, and potentially Dreamstate as well, has worked out rather well for balance druids thus far, so there really isn't any reason to change the way in which we regenerate mana. That being said, our mana regeneration scheme has changed every expansion so far. We didn't have any in vanilla. In The Burning Crusade, we had melee for mana as well as passive regeneration in the restoration tree, and in Wrath, we had mana refunded from critical strikes. I would venture to guess that Blizzard is happy with Euphoria and that it isn't going anywhere, but it's entirely possible that the devs will decide differently -- unlikely, I think, but possible all the same.

Rotation RNG

Last, though certainly not least, there is one more talent that probably isn't going anywhere. This one may seem a little off-kilter from the others, but bear with me on it: Shooting Stars. Going into Cataclysm, Blizzard made a point it doesn't want for any spec to have a flat, rote rotation that they could merely macro into a spell sequence and go from there. The balance rotation is certainly in that field. It isn't entirely perfect due in part to the cooldown on Starsurge, but without Shooting Stars and the secondary effect of Euphoria, you could easily write the rotation down to the spell number.

Shooting Stars and the chance at gaining additional Eclipse on Euphoria are the only ways in which any form of variation is added into our rotation; as Blizzard would say, it is one of the few measurements of skill. While the latter certainly isn't true for balance druids, the former part is. Without Shooting Stars, our rotation is fairly boring, plus we don't have any other form of burst. While I'm not going to say that Shooting Stars will 100% without any doubt be converted down into the spec proper, I wouldn't be all that surprised to see it. Blizzard may choose a different method of changing up our rotation, or it may have abandoned the idea of forced RNG entirely, but there's a good chance that we'll be keeping Shooting Stars as well.

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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