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Druid tactics/Balance

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GeneralEdit

As a balance druid you can perform a number of roles with a number of aims. Central to these is the Moonkin Form.

Moonkin Form Edit

Moonkin Form is a form available to druids with 30 points invested into the balance talent tree. Moonkins are often affectionately referred to as boomkins, oomkins, doomkins, crit chickens, or laser chickens. Almost everyone is familiar with the distinctive 'moon lasers' (Starfire and Moonfire) which are its signature attack visuals.

Due to several BC and WOTLK changes, their previous serious threat and mana issues have been resolved. In a similar way to the (now often deadly) Retribution Paladin (A Loladin) the names persist, more in reference to the past than any real current issues...

In Moonkin Form you get

  • A percent bonus to armor rating from items. Armor rating from enchantments and agility is not multiplied. Note that this is comparable to the Bear Form bonus, and gives a Moonkin a great survivability advantage to other casters. Be aware that most likely you will not have defence oriented stats, so care is still recommended.
  • An aura granting all party or raid members additional spell critical strike chance.
  • The ability to regain mana when your single-target spells achieve a critical strike.
  • The Moonkin can effectively only cast Balance spells while shapeshifted, with the notable important exceptions below:
  • In various patches leading up to WOTLK, Gift or Mark of the Wild, Remove curse and Abolish Poison were all allowed to be cast in Moonkin form. These are vital in PvE combat. In a raid situation, preserving mana is often a major consideration, and shapeshifting is a massive mana drain. Ensuring curses, poisons and GoTW is restored to killed players is often the responsibility of a balance druid.

Notable Spells and AbilitiesEdit

Balance spells are primarily oriented around doing magic damage to enemies and crowd control.

Within the Cast Cycle Edit

An example PvE cast cycle would include Faerie Fire, Moonfire, Insect Swarm, Starfire and Wrath. It is likely that PvP would utilise these same spells to a good extent, though with different a talent investment and cast cycle.

Faerie Fire Edit

This is a vital PvE spell, causing an armour debuff. When talent points are used to gain Improved Faerie Fire, then the raid's chance to hit is increased by 3%, and it increases the critical strike chance of your damage spells by 3%. This spell should almost definitely be the first used on a raid boss and should be reapplied following any form of dispelling.

In PvP, in addition to its useful armor debuff this spell allows druids to keep Rogues from vanishing in PvP. This reduces their ability to stunlock and DPS, and also makes it harder for them to escape, unless they use Cloak of Shadows to remove the effect before using Vanish.

Insect Swarm Edit

This is the Moonkin's secondary DOT and another vital role. The spell causes their chance to hit with melee and ranged attacks by 3% and causes nature damage over 12 sec. In a raiding situation, the use talents to gain Improved Insect Swarm is recommended, as is using the Glyph of Insect Swarm. Despite being a slightly less powerful spell, it is usually cast before Moonfire in the Moonkin cast-cycle as the lack of a burst section of damage reduces threat issues.

Moonfire Edit

Moonfire plays a dual role in the druid's arsenal. First, if the druid allows the DoT to run its course it provides a steady reasonably mana efficient supplement to DPS. Secondly, it is the only instant cast damage spell with a Cooldown less than 6 seconds, and the druid can Spam it, producing relatively large DPS at the cost of mana efficiency. In long fights (i.e. most boss fights), balance druids should generally avoid Moonfire spam, unless they are confident that they have sufficient mana regeneration that they will effectively have spare mana at the end of the fight. In PvP, moonfire spam is often used to kill off a fleeing opponent.

In PvE, when used for spam-style burst damage, Moonfire is the least mana-efficient of the druid's damage spells, providing the lowest damage per point of mana spent (DPM).

Moonfire should be used by allowing the DoT to run to completion. When used in this way, it gives the highest DPM. With the Glyph of Starfire this spell is a mana efficient and effective DoT essential for a raiding Moonkin.

With many end-game Idols having a change to give a beneficial effect on each tick of Moonfire it is almost essential to keep Moonfire on at least one target, though putting it on multiple targets allows it to occur more frequently, though this does use up valuble time for casting other important spells.

Wrath Edit

Wrath is one of the cornerstones of a standard Moonkin damage cycle. The Starlight Wrath talent should be fully filled out for all Balance Druids, and gives wrath a 1.5s cast time. Due to this, it is a powerful and relatively quick spell to cast, making it ideal of PvP or PvE. It causes nature damage.

It is predominantly used in as part of the Eclipse Cast cycle. When used in this cycle, Wrath gains from a bonus to damage, and can be viewed as the quick burn segment of the cycle, as it often procs with Nature's Grace to cause near Global Cool-down speed casts.

Starfire Edit

Starfire is one of the cornerstones of a standard Moonkin damage cycle. The Starlight Wrath talent should be fully filled out for all Balance Druids, and gives Starfire a 3s cast time. It is the hardest single hitting druid spell, but also has a long cast time. This makes it generally a PvE spell, though when effectively used in PvP its high damage can make it lethal.

It is predominantly used in as part of the Eclipse Cast cycle. When used in this cycle, Starfire gains from a bonus to critical strike, and can be viewed as the hard burn segment of the cycle. It gains a large crit bonus, causing procs with Nature's Grace to cause 1-2 second speed high-damage casts. Due to this high chance of critting, this often ends up in a period where the Moonkin is infact gaining mana and achieves large individual cast sizes. A well cast cycle of moonfire/starfire, combined with Glyph of Starfire can result in a very mana efficient or even mana positive section of a fight.

Threat generated from Starfire critical strikes can be large, as starfire crits with a large shock damage value. Early Lunar Eclipse procs should be carefully managed.

Other important Spells Edit

This page is currently being re-written: It will include sections on Cyclone, Abolish Poison, Decurse, Thorns, Starfall and Hurricane.


Cyclone Bc icon Edit

This is a crowd controlling spell that makes an enemy invulnerable and unable to cast for up to 6 seconds. Unlike Polymorph, the health of the enemy is not increased, but it does not have the duration of similar spells like Banish. Cyclone is subject to diminishing returns in both PvE and PvP, lasting for 6 seconds on the first cast to a single target, 3 seconds on the second cast, and 1.5 seconds on the third. After the third cast a target is granted immunity to this spell.

This is an exceptional raid spell for neutralising mind-controlled characters. While it does not have the duration of sheep, it offers immunity to damage. This makes a quick reacting Moonkin a vital raid addition in fights such as Lady Deathwhisper.

AttributesEdit

What to gear and spec precisely is open to debate and is as much a question of taste and gaming style as it is hard fact. Ultimately, the following rules should be followed for a PvE Boomkin:

  • Achieve spell hit cap (usualy 262 for a Raid Spec).
  • Maximise spell power
  • Achieve haste soft-cap (400).
  • Maximise crit.

The shift from Just dinged to Raid ready lies within achieving the hitcap. As a Moonkin progresses with gear, they should always concentrate on spellpower. A player should not pass up the opportunity to get Haste Capped. As end-game approaches, hitcap and soft hastecap limits will be reached, and crit should be prioritised.

This can be summarised in PvE as:

Spell hit (to cap) > Spell power > Haste (to soft cap) > Crit

There are similar approaches for the various PvP Moonkin Builds. Usually some value of desired spell penetration is aimed for, then spell power, crit and haste are maximised depending on the aims and objectives of the build.

Depending on the specific spec, prioritise crit, spirit, intellect and mp5. These aimed to be maximised as a second priority to spell damage. Usually mp5 is the least desirable Moonkin stat. Crit is generally what regenerates mana for a raiding Moonkin. Spirit and intellect both add to overall spell power depending on your spec. In PvP, the shorter life expectancy of a player means that extended casting is not expected: Innervate and a mana potion of some sort is usually chosen with the mana regeneration talents and stats directed to survival or damage. Please note that the above is a loose guide as even within the Balance tree, there are many different approaches and specs.

SoloingEdit

Druids work well as a soloing class. Pull the enemy creature with a Wrath spell to draw them away from other creatures that would gang up on you. Learn the maximum distance of your Wrath spell (36 yards with the Nature's Reach balance talent), and be in the habit of casting from there. While the Wrath bolt is still traveling to the enemy, cast Moonfire. Follow this with Entangling Roots. Move back to the limit of your Wrath spell and repeat. Do not be tempted to switch to Bear form - you have comparable armour bonuses in Moonkin form, as well as crowd control available. Should you be taking heavy damage or being interrupted, a Barkskin can turn the tide, reducing damage taken and stopping casting interruption, particularly if you shapeshift to heal.

If you run out of mana while soloing a creature, Entangling Roots can save your life. Root the creature and then just stand back and wait for your mana to regenerate. Once you have enough mana, cast Entangling Roots again. If it is not resisted or immediately removed, heal yourself. Otherwise cast it again. Repeat the process. Entangling Roots does a small amount of damage. When you feel comfortable with your health vs the creatures health, go back to damaging it. Note: This trick might not work if your spirit is very low.

Train up First Aid for healing between fights in order to save mana and maintain the highest efficiency. As you level, do not forget about your ability Innervate, which is very useful since it has been changed to a 3 minute base cooldown.

As you become more powerful, you will find killing mobs relatively simple. A very standard technique for appropriately levelled or geared boomkins is to pre-load themselves with a rejuvenation and maybe lifebloom, jump to Moonkin form, then DOT 4-7 enemies with moonfire and insect swarm. Your increased armour, combined with a slight healing should mean that you will survive fighting multiple opponents. Draw these adds together, pop a Barkskin and then aoe them down with Hurricane. This method makes levelling, questing and grinding very efficient.

GroupingEdit

It's a common misconception that as druids are a hybrid class they will only be able to approach, but not match, the pure DPS classes. Although a warlock/mage has a larger arsenal of DPS spells, a properly specced druid can match, and in some cases surpass, the DPS of warlocks/mages. Blizzard has stated they want Hybrid classes to approach the DPS of pure classes much closer in Wrath of the Lich King.

Although druids in balance spec MAY have less DPS than a mage/warlock, druids in moonkin form have an amour value similar to that of a warrior, giving them a lot more flexibility. Mages/warlocks are highly susceptible to melee damage, and the moonkin form's high armor seriously mitigates this and gives them that little edge in raiding. Balance Druids, however, are one of the most effective classes at performing AoE DPS, their Starfall and Hurricane spells allow them to effectively cast two AoE spells at the same time.

Raiding Spells and Cast Cycle Edit

The Boomkin endgame raiding approach is affected by a number of aims and approaches. General fundamentals include:

  • As with all casters, the player is advised to spend talents to increase the chance to hit. Moonkin talents result in a hitcap of 262. Gear should chosen ensure that this hitcap is reached but not overshot - there is no advantage to surpassing this.
  • Spell power should be maximised, and while raiding foodbuffs and flasks chosen should reflect this.
  • While the individual choices should be chosen and tweaked, the eclipse talent must be chosen for effective endgame raiding.

When compared to other classes, it must be noticed that the balance druid caster and mana mechanic is relatively unique.

Your initial priority, as per other dps casters, should be to gear to the hitcap and then maximise spell power. As a second, but very important, set of concerns the following should be considered:

  • When a Moonkin critically hits, it regains mana. At Tier 9-10 raid buffed levels, this can often be more than the base cost of the spell. While it is a simplification to assume that this will result no mana loss (the cast cycle is not mana-positive), it can often get very close to this in simple and extended fights, such as Patchwerk. At this level, it is often pertinent to move mana regeneration talents chosen for entry level raiding, such as Intensity in the resto tree, and moving them to pure damage talents.

It cannot be emphasised enough that critting is the pivotal aim for Moonkin. There are many talents, such as Vengeance, which drastically improve your chances of critically striking, and it is vital that these are investigated and preferably invested in.

In raiding the rotation is fairly mechanical since the change to Eclipse. Put up DoTs and Wrath until you get a Starfire (Lunar) eclipse. Change to Starfire during Eclipse then continue casting Starfire until you get a Wrath (Solar) Eclipse> Switch to Wrath, and continue until another Lunar Eclipse occurs.

Refresh DoTs as needed, but if your DoTs fall off during the last half of an Eclipse you should consider waiting until Eclipse is over before reapplying them. The addition of a Glyph of Starfire as well as the Tier-9 2 set bonus make this an experiment to be tested. When further complicated by some Idols and Tier Set Bonuses, this really depends on both the style of play and available equipment. Do not underestimate the process of your DoT applications - they should be thoroughly investigated on a Target Dummy. Often in a raiding situation, the correct application of DoTs within your Eclipse cycle makes the difference on the DPS tables.

The two absolutely essential glyphs for sustained raid DPS are Glyph of Starfire and Glyph of Moonfire. The Glyph of Starfire extends the dot of Moonfire, while the Glyph of Moonfire makes the DoT portion more powerful, giving great synergy.

Wrath is sometimes not viable during Bloodlust/Heroism due to almost certainly hitting the 1 second GCD limit with all that haste, so you should only Moonfire and Starfire. There is a so called soft-cap for haste, currently sitting at 400, beyond which these spells lose any extra benefit. Cleverly geared Moonkins aim to approach but not exceed this, swapping stats to aim for crit when near 400.

Extra PvP TricksEdit

Main article: Druid tactics#PvP

In PvP, balance druids are able to use their moonkin form to absorb large amounts of damage, and with recent talent additions suffer little knockback with many of their abilities. This has made a balance druid (specced correctly) a very exceptional class in PvP. However, due to the inability to use restoration spells in moonkin form the sometimes necessary tactic of dropping form and healing means a large mana cost and can be cumbersome.

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