13 October 2008

WotLK: new balance druid talents

OK, I need to complete my four-part series. This time, I want to look at the new talents in the Balance tree. Get a beverage, because this will take a while. The Balance tree has changed a lot.

(I already discussed a few of the talents in my Resto talent post. These are all very relevant to healing, but they're also good for Balance of course.)

Tier 1

Changes start at the top: Nature's Grasp is gone, now available as a baseline ability. Gone with it is Improved NG, as the spell now has a 100% chance to proc. Very nice. This is basically replaced with Genesis, which boosts our DoTs — Moonfire, Insect Swarm, and (I believe) Entangling Roots. Meh, it's decent for mana efficiency.

Tier 2

Control of Nature is gone too. In its place we have Moonglow, reducing mana cost for a host of spells. Another spell that will greatly help your efficiency, but isn't an attention-grabber.

Nature's Majesty is really just the old Focused Starlight, but now also applies to Starfall, Nourish, and Healing Touch.

Tier 3

Brambles is more exciting than it used to be. Along with boosting the damage of Thorns and Roots, it also adds a daze effect to both your Force of Nature treants and to your Barkskin buff. That's going to be extremely nice for PvP, giving us a counter for both casters (by dropping the treants on them) and melee. It also boosts the damage of your treants by 15%, which will help in PvE too.

Nature's Grace is now a three-point talent but otherwise has the same effect. Nature's Splendor, which I discussed in Resto, also adds duration to Moonfire and Insect Swarm. Another example of an ostensibly boring talent that will probably prove to help with overall DPS and mana efficiency in raids.

Nature's Reach has an important change for Balance druids: more than just increasing your range, it now also reduces your threat by 10/20%. That's key because Subtlety in Resto will no longer reduce threat from Balance spells — only Resto — so we needed a threat drain somewhere. This is it!

Tier 4

Celesital Focus replaces its old pushback protection with spell haste, probably due to the changes in the pushback mechanism. Vengeance is basically unchanged, just adding Starfall to its list of affected spells.

Tier 5

Insect Swarm is now found here, rather than tier 3. It will be more of a defining spell for Balance druids now. There's also a Improved Insect Swarm talent here, but it's a bit weird. It's a synergy talent, boosting Wrath damage if the target has Insect Swarm on it. But it also boosts Starfire crit chance if the target's affected by Moonfire. Odd — but it gives you room to play with different spell rotations now.

Lunar Guidance is nerfed by about half, only giving 4/8/12% of your Intellect as Spell Power. Still pretty powerful though.

Tier 6

Fairly stable — neither Moonfury or Balance of Power have changed much. We've been told that Moonfury will be reduced to 3 points (instead of 5) but keep the same effect, to free up some of our talent "bloat". We also have Dreamstate here, down slightly from Tier 7. Speaking of:

Tier 7

Well, here we get Moonkin Form, of course. But the lazer chicken has changed:
                Old Moonkin      New Moonkin           Nerf/Buff
Bonus armor 400% 370% Nerf!
Spell Crit 5% to party 5% to raid Buff!
Melee AP 150% of level none Nerf - who cares?
Mana regen Chance on melee Chance on spell crit Buff!
Ultimately, this is a big buff to the form. I don't know yet how much mana we'll get back from spell crits, but it's got to be better than the melee mechanism we had before.

We now also have Improved Moonkin Form. It's got two benefits: it gives 3% haste to Moonkin aura, and it gives you spell power equal to 15% of your Spirit. Finally, a reason for Moonkin to use Spirit!

To wrap up Tier 7, Improved Faerie Fire now adds 3% immproved chance for spells to hit, as well as buffing your own spell damage on afflicted targets. It's nice that it does good for the Moonkin now, too.

Tier 8

Owlkin Frenzy looks like fun for PvP. It's a 'further improved' moonkin form that, when it procs, will give you both 10% damage bonus and spell pushback protection. Wrath of Cenarius is unchanged.

Tier 9

Typhoon was discussed in the new abilities post. Force of Nature is unchanged. But there's a lot more in Tier 9.

Gale Winds buffs both Hurricane and Tsunami Typhoon, adding 30% to their damage. It also adds 6 yards of range to your Cyclone. The latter buff is nice for PvP, while the former two will depend on those specific spells. Personally, I'm salivating over the AoE-tanking ability of Moonkin with Hurricane.

Eclipse is designed to be a tricky talent. Basically, it's designed to reward proc-watching, giving you a synergy where Wrath crits buff Starfire and vice versa. I suspect a skilled raiding Moonkin will take this and watch carefully for the right time to change rotation. For solo play or PvP this seems rather forgettable. It will however see a damage increase soon.

Tier 10

Earth and Moon is another raid-scale damage increase. This spell (which will, like Moonfury, be reduced to 3 points) procs off Starfire and Moonfire. It grants 13% damage bonus for all spell schools except, I believe, Holy. It also grants you up to 5% increased spell damage individually. This flat DPS increase would make it worthwhile, even apart from the aura affecting other raid members.

Tier 11

Finally! We've topped out on Starfall, which I've discussed previously. This is a spell which firmly falls into "wait and see" territory for me.

Resto Talents

There are also Resto talents that will benefit the Balance druid. Most notably, Omen of Clarity will now proc off spell casts, so it's very intersting to pick up. Along the way you might grab Nature's Focus, which adds 70% pushback resistance to Wrath, Entangling Roots, and Cyclone, along with a slew of healing spells. And Master Shapeshifter will give a tidy 4% damage boost to Moonkin form.

One other possibility to consider. When you reach level 80, you'll have 71 talent points to spend. That opens the possibility of a 50/0/21 build, taking Nature's Swiftness along with 50 points in Balance. You'd have to skip Starfall, but otherwise you could have a full-featured Balance build.


The balance talents are completely torn up and rebuilt. The tree is a lot better for it. I think that solo and 5-man play will be about equal to what they were before, but that was very good so we're fine. Raid play got a huge buff, with the raid-wide aura changes and increased utility. (And don't forget CC with roots!) I can't really assess PvP; it looks like we've got more tools to use but I'm not sure how well they'll stack up.

Hope you enjoyed this. Tomorrow I'll post my first-draft level 70 builds for both Resto and Balance. That's what I'll use Tuesday night when I respec.

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