Druids in WoD: The Alpha Drop

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Holy moley, late last night (for us EU people anyway) we just got bombarded by a TON of information surrounding Warlords of Draenor, and I’ve certainly got more than enough things to talk about with WoW over the next few articles! Ion Hazzikostas teased us with telling us that the alpha had officially begun on Warlords of Draenor, and mostly talked about their move from MPQ files over to CASC, something they’ve been trying with Heroes of the Storm.

Rygarius also tweeted that in the same evening that he had a blog that was going up imminently, and had been working on the notes for it for the past few months… So naturally that only had to mean one thing, especially with Watcher’s blog not long earlier concerning alpha testing beginning – the first official patch notes for 6.0!

And disappointed, we were not. There is a ton of information that you can check out here, but as usual being a Balance Druid, I’m first going to be going over what we can expect in the 6.0 patch as fat owls.

As always, please note that in the time of writing this article, everything is in alpha and may change over the course of the next few weeks/months. While I will not backtrack and update old articles, I will publish new ones concerning any changes, especially when it comes to Balance Druids.

Player Power Squish

Stats

First up, we have the fabled stat squish coming to our doorsteps. What this means is that our crits for 1mill+ will now be scaled down a notch or two, as well as health pools. We should see power levels similar to how they were at the start of Cataclysm, but of course old content is also getting squished down too. How they’ll scale by the end of WoD is still up in the air, but I’m expecting it to be similar. In terms of soloing old content, if your Starsurge crits Raggy in MC for 800k (~80% of his health pool) in WoD your Starsurge crit of around 40k will still be ~80% of his health pool. The relative power levels can be seen in the chart above.

Secondly, crit modifiers have been removed from intellect (and agility). Plate DPS can now stop crying that their stats are out of whack compared to the rest of the game. But seriously though, overall it’s a decent change, it did make scaling crit between Warriors and the rest of the specs in the game a little challenging, but hopefully it should be much easier to balance as a result. Agility-based specs will get a new passive to increase their crit chance by 10% on top of base crit, but us casters are left with a base 5%.

Spells no longer have any base damage, all of their damage is scaled through your spellpower, giving Blizz another knob to turn on the caster vs physical DPS war should one get ahead of the other.

Hit rating and expertise are gone! Instead of juggling to hit that 15% hit rating with gems and reforges, we can now just focus on things that increase our DPS, instead of getting a certain stat to remove a penalty (that then becomes a useless stat once you reach it). Hit/Expertise gems and item enhancements will turn into Crit, Haste or Mastery in the new patch. For us Moonkins, it means that Balance of Power passive ability has been removed, so we can safely leave all Spirit gear to our Resto specs.

Don’t forget also that we’re going to be seeing brand new secondaries along the lines of Multistrike and Readiness, though there hasn’t been any mention of these stats or the tertiary ones in the patch notes, but hopefully they haven’t been removed!

Racials

Racials are seeing an update, to try and balance out the performance-increasing racials among the different races. As Druids can only be 4 races, I’ll just go into how these racials have changed and how I believe they’ll affect Moonkins. Worgen haven’t received any racial changes themselves, so if you’re wondering where they are in this section, it’s because they have no changes to talk about.

malenightelfNight Elf

  • Quickness now also increases movement speed by 2% in addition to increasing Dodge chance by 2%.
  • Touch of Elune is a new passive ability which increases Haste by 1% at night, and Critical Strike chance by 1% during the day.

Quickness finally makes us quick, and though it’s minor bonus movement speed is always useful. I just wonder if it’ll stack with Feline Swiftness or with our other movement speed benefits. Getting from A to B more quickly is always useful, but at only 2% we’re probably not going to see massive benefit to choosing a Night Elf from that racial alone. Touch of Elune is an interesting racial, and with the removal of haste plateaus it should mean that we don’t have to try and seek daytime-only guilds or nighttime-only, but it really does depend on how stat weights are going to be in the expansion. Still, 1% is such an insignificant amount that it would only apply to those guilds going for world firsts.

maletaurenTauren

  • Brawn is a new racial passive ability that increases Critical Strike bonus damage and healing done by 2%.
  • Endurance now increases Stamina by an amount scaling with character level, instead of increasing Base Health by 5%.

Brawn looks like quite a cool racial for late-game Druids, when we’ve got the critical strike rating to actually make the racial worthwhile, and Endurance for free stamina is always going to be useful, especially in the day of triage healing having that little extra sliver of health to keep you going could be the difference of life and death.

maletrollTroll

  • Berserking now increases Haste by 15% (down from 20%).
  • Beast Slaying now increases XP earned from killing Beasts by 20%, instead of increasing damage dealt versus Beasts by 5%.
  • Dead Eye has been removed (was 1% Expertise with ranged weapons).

Trolls have seen a huge nerf, especially when concerning us Moonkins. A nerf to their cooldown as well as the bonus beast damage might sway some players to check out Tauren. I don’t have the numbers with me, and I’m not a numbers person, so the top race for Balance may still be Trolls after all said and done, but that gap is so much smaller now that outside of world first guilds it shouldn’t matter so much any more.

Class Perks

First up, what perks can we expect to see from leveling between 90-100? Well, at 90 and 100 we get new talents, but at 91-99 every class has 9 different boosts they can get to different abilities, at random. Therefore, some players may get Enhanced Frenzy at 91, where some may receive Empowered Starfall. Completely random, but you do get all 9 by level 99. Here’s what we can expect so far:

  • Enhanced Mushrooms – Each time your Hurricane or Astral Storm deals damage, your Wild Mushrooms will grow, dealing 5% additional damage, up to a maximum of 300%.
  • Enhanced Storms – Every 1 sec, your Hurricane and Astral Storm will generate 10 Lunar or Solar energy, whichever is more beneficial to you.
  • Enhanced Moonkin Form – Your Moonkin Form grants an additional 100% armor increase.
  • Enhanced Frenzy – Triggering Owlkin Frenzy also makes your next damage or healing spell cast within 10 sec instant.
  • Improved Starfire – Your Starfire deals 20% additional damage.
  • Enhanced Starsurge – Your Starsurge generates an additional 10 Lunar or Solar energy.
  • Empowered Starfall – Your Starfall and Sunfall strike an additional target every 1 sec.
  • Improved Wrath – Your Wrath deals 20% additional damage.
  • Improved Moonfire – Your Moonfire and Sunfire deal 20% additional damage.

Wow. We’ve got some really interesting things waiting for us on our route to 90. We’ve got the boring perks that increase our rotational damage, sure, but every class and spec has them. We do have 5-6 pretty interesting ones however, and I’m excited to see that Mushrooms may finally be of use outside of extra strikes for procs at the start of the fight! Taking a leaf from the Resto toolkit, we see that our base AoE will increase the damage of Mushrooms by a massive amount (unless Blizz nerfs their base damage anyway). My only concern would be the problem that Balance Druids have always had: moving packs of mobs.

Firstly, Hurricane/Astral Storm is a static channeled ability, where you have to hope that enemies stay within the cloud, else you’re just wasting mana trying to follow them around everywhere. Secondly, unless mushrooms carry the mechanic over that Restoshrooms do over storing the bonus damage in newly planted shrooms, we’re kinda hoping that mobs that need that nuke AoE will be in the mushroom radius when we pop them. Still, we have to have drawbacks somewhere at least. I can foresee hoping that some boss rooms have tons of critters around so that I can plant shrooms and then Hurricane all the critters to death to store up a big nuke at the start of a fight. I do love the eclipse mechanic being added to Hurricane/Astral Storm though, it’s so much needed as it was a massive nerf to your single target DPS when you were done AoEing, to slowly struggle to the next eclipse.

The next two in the list are also interesting, giving us a defensive bone in PvP (and in some cases in PvE), where we’re a lot less squishy, and if we do get hit by those mean enemies, we can get instant Healing Touches off every 10secs. I doubt it’ll include Cyclone or Roots, as that’s what Blizz are trying to get away from with instant cast CCs, but being able to get a nuke heal off would be pretty awesome regardless.

Skipping down the list again, and we have an interesting perk for Starsurge. Starsurge generating extra eclipse power is amazing, and further cements it into being the top priority spell to use in most cases (unless we get situations like in early MoP again with low haste/crit, where you had to hold off on it in Solar eclipse). Allowing it to gain 30 power is awesome, especially when post-Lunar where you could just cast Starfire and Starsurge, and you’re suddenly in Solar. Though having said that, I can see situations where at 100 Lunar, you cast Starfire (80), Starsurge (50), Starfire (30)… Then if you get a Shooting Stars proc you have to hold it off for another Starfire (10) before firing off Starsurge (post-lunar 20), so that you only need to cast two Starfires to get to Solar. Using Starsurge would bring you to 0 eclipse energy, and you’d lose eclipse bonus on a Starfire.

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Talents

  • Sunfall (Balance) – Entering Solar Eclipse will transform your Starfall spell into Sunfall and reset its cooldown.
  • Insect Swarm (Balance) – Swarm the target enemy with insects which deal XXXX Nature damage every 3 sec for 15 sec. Each time that it deals damage, it also generates 5 Lunar or Solar energy, whichever is more beneficial to you. May only be cast while not in an Eclipse. 2,688 Mana, 40 yd range, 1.5 sec cast.
  • Equinox (Balance) – Lunar and Solar Eclipse now lat until the other it triggered, instead of ending at 0 Balance Power.

From what I’m reading here, in terms of Balance Druids we’ve come out of BlizzCon fairly unscathed. Our previous 6 tiers are untouched (with the exception of level 90 tier), and we’re keeping Sunfall and Equinox. Zenith is the only casualty from a Moonkin perspective, and I can’t say I’m not happy with that. The mid-talent of the tier was a Genesis-copy for Moonfire and Sunfire, speeding up our DOTs on targets. But we had to channel it. And didn’t gain any eclipse energy from it. Overall it was a talent with limited uses – it had uses in very select circumstances, but overall I could imagine it being a DPS loss.

The new talent however brings us back our Insect Swarm! It’s a heavily modified version of it, but it’s certainly an interesting talent that I’d be very inclined to try out. 25+ Lunar or Solar energy over 15secs (depending on how many times it will do damage, so haste may apply). I imagine Euphoria won’t be updated to affect it, but if it does it’s around 50 energy, but of course it can only be cast outside of eclipses. As far as I know, Eclipse is one of the only mechanics that will record snap-shotting of skills, so there’s no worry about casting it in pre-solar to get more benefit from it, but it is another DOT to manage, along with keeping track of our eclipse to know when we can cast it (or whether we have time to cycle through an eclipse before it drops off). I can see it being the top damage for the tier of talents, but with a far higher skillcap required to pay it off.

Our level 90 talents are also getting changed, in that they’re going to be more focused on the Druidic role of being a hybrid, instead of having the talents being heavily decided on what gives you the biggest increase in your primary role. I believe that this is what the tier was originally designed for at the start of MoP, so it’ll be interesting to see if Blizzard do a 180 decision on that again or if they’ll keep a firm foot on keeping that tier as a hybrid-focused one. Regardless, the changes are as follows:

  • Heart of the Wild no longer provides an increase to Hit chance or Expertise while active, and no longer increases Stamina, Agility, and Intellect.
  • Dream of Cenarius
    • Balance: Casting Healing Touch no longer increases the damage bonus of the Druid’s next Eclipse. Eclipse now causes the Druid’s next Healing Touch to become instant cast and reset the cooldown on Starsurge.
    • Feral: Casting Healing Touch no longer increases the damage of the Druid’s next 2 melee abilities, or increases the healing of Rejuvenation.
    • Guardian: No longer increases the critical strike chance of Mangle.
  • Nature’s Vigil, while active, increases single-target damage and healing caused by healing spells by 16% (down from 25%), and all single-target damage spells also heal a nearby friendly target for 35% of the damage done (up from 25%).

I’m really digging the DoC change for Balance, it might be a good contender for PvP depending on how quickly we can cycle through eclipses. Heart of the Wild will still be defensive supreme, which is going to be required in high-rated arenas, but for RBGs we might be able to see all 3 talents in use here, depending on matchups!

Druid02

Ability Pruning

Blizzard have already mentioned that some classes have way too many buttons to press, and that they were looking at either merging some abilities together, or altogether removing them for certain specs, or for the class as a whole. For Druids, these spells got the chop:

  • Enrage has been removed.
  • Innervate has been removed. Mana costs for Druids have been adjusted accordingly.
  • Mangle (Cat Form) has been removed. Mangle (Bear Form) remains unchanged.
  • Nourish has been removed.
  • Shred is now available to all Druids.
  • Swipe (Bear Form) has been removed. Swipe (Cat Form) remains unchanged.
  • Symbiosis has been removed.

I’m actually surprised at this list. Firstly, I’ve always thought we had a lot of buttons to press – but deliberated on what abilities should go, because they’re all such a core that it didn’t seem like much to remove them. Sure, they could have merged Starfire and Wrath and just made them switch between the two depending on the last eclipse state, but I still look at my Druid and see 5 bars full of abilities and macros, and that’s just in raiding, let alone PvP.

I’m sad to see Symbiosis go. I know a lot of Druids didn’t get on with it and that they shouldn’t have to refer to a chart to work out who’s best to use Symbiosis on per fight, but it was a fun ability with a good mixture of different defensive cooldowns that made you think about what classes you’d work well with. But having one buff for one person just gave most other raiders a redundant button on their bars, just in case a Druid cast Symbiosis on them. Many people complained if I put Symbiosis on them, because they had to try and find whatever spell I gave them in their spellbook and find a place in their immaculate UI to place it. We also lose a bit of raid utility in our loss of Innervate, but I’m not too fussed about it really – it’s one bar on VuhDo that I can get rid of.

Crowd Control and Diminishing Returns

Dipping our toes back into PvP again, CC and DRs have been completely gutted and re-organised. An overall summary of what’s happened is below:

  • Removed Silence effects from Interrupts. Silences still exist, but are never attached to an Interrupt.
  • Removed all Disarms.
  • Reduced the number of Diminishing Returns (DR) categories.
    • All Roots now share the same DR category.
      • Exception: Roots on ‘Charge’ types of abilities have no DR category, but have a very short duration instead.
    • All Stuns now share the same DR category.
    • All Incapacitate (“Mesmerize”) effects now share the same DR category, and have been merged with the Horror DR category.
  • Removed the ability to make cast-time CC spells instant with a cooldown.
  • Removed many CC spells entirely, and increased the cooldowns and restrictions on others.
    • Pet-cast CC is more limited and often removed.
    • Cyclone can now be dispelled by Immunities and Mass Dispel.
    • PvP trinkets now grant immunity to reapplication of an effect from the same spell cast, when they break abilities with persistent effects like Solar Beam.
    • Long fears are now shorter in PvP, to account for the target also needing to run back afterward.

And specifically for Druids themselves:

  • Cyclone can now be canceled by immunity effects (i.e. Divine Shield, Ice Block, etc.), and can be dispelled by Mass Dispel.
  • Disorienting Roar effect now shares Diminishing Returns with other Mesmerize effects.
  • Nature’s Swiftness can no longer turn Cyclone into an instant-cast spell.
  • Solar Beam no longer Silence a target again more than once per cast. Additionally, the Silence effect from this spell now shares Diminishing Returns with other Silence.

Massive, and much needed nerf to Cyclone. We can no longer NS-Clone, and the Cyclone itself can be dispelled and bubbled, which is something I’m going to need to get used to, and Solar Beam gets a hefty nerf with its Beam and Vortex combo. We’re going to have to actually Root people inside our Beams now, like in the good old days. Putting Solar Beam on the DR list is a minor nuisance too, though many silences previously have now turned into plain interrupts, such as Counterspell or Spell Lock.

ancient_moonkin_form_by_rainerpetterart-d5va22x

Buffs and Debuffs

Mists of Pandaria already saw one revision of the distribution of raidwide buffs and debuffs, however Warlords is taking it one step further again with changes to Weakened Armor, Weakened Blows, Physical Vulnerability, Cast Speed Slows and Spell Haste/Attack Speed. Most of these won’t affect Moonkins, but it’s worth mentioning that Faerie Fire will now apply Physical Vulnerability, as the Weakened Armor debuff is being removed in the expansion. Being in Moonkin Form will not only increase Spell Haste now, but also Attack Speed to fellow raiders.

Weakened Blows and Cast Speed Slow effects have also been removed from the game, and Windwalker Monks/Shadowpriests can apply magic damage taken debuffs (dammit Blizz, gimme back my Earth and Moon).

Automatically Learned Glyphs

For those thinking about leveling a new Druid, there are a few glyphs that will be automatically learned at 25, 50 and 75 (I see there’s no new glyph slots at 100 Blizz…). While this does harm Scribes a little bit, I believe Blizz have already commented that Scribes will be able to do more than just make glyphs and some starter items in the next expansion, but details aren’t confirmed yet. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem like we have any removed glyphs, so here’s what we get as we level:

  • Level 25: Entangling Roots, Fae Silence, Ferocious Bite, Maul, Omens, Cat Form
  • Level 50: Might of Ursoc, Nature’s Grasp, Rebirth, Rejuvenation, Savagery
  • Level 75: Dash, Faerie Fire, Healing Touch, Master Shapeshifter

I don’t know how it is for other classes as I can’t remember what their main glyphs are that they use, but I feel it’s safe to say that these glyphs are some of the lesser-bought ones in any case, and the high-traffic ones on the AH are still going to be high traffic.

EDIT: It seems that the good folks over at MMO-C have datamined a bunch of new glyphs for us too! They are as follows:

  • Glyph of Astral Communion – Your Astral Communion ability can be used while moving.
  • Glyph of Imbued Bark – While Barkskin is active, when you are interrupted the resulting school lock has 50% reduced duration.
  • Glyph of Enchanted Bark – For 10 sec after activating Barkskin, you are immune to Silence and Interrupt effects.
  • Glyph of Ursol’s Defense – Increases your armor in Bear Form by an additional 210%.
  • Glyph of the Ninth Life – Reduces all damage taken while in Cat Form by 10%.
  • Glyph of Celestial Alignment – Celestial Alignment now lasts 60 sec, or until 12 spells have been cast with it active, whichever occurs first.
  • Glyph of Sudden Eclipse – While not in an Eclipse state critical attacks done to you restore 20 Solar or Lunar energy whichever is more beneficial to you. This effect can only occur once every 6 sec.
  • Glyph of Maim – Increases the damage done by Maim by 100%.
  • Glyph of the Shapemender – Each time you activate a shapeshift form, you are healed for 5% of your maximum health.
  • Glyph of Moonwarding – Moonkin Form no longer grants bonus armor, but instead grants 10% increased maximum health.
  • Glyph of Travel – Travel Form grants an additional 60% movement speed, but can no longer be used while in combat. This effect is disabled in battlegrounds and arenas and cannot be combined with other temporary speed bonuses.

It seems we actually have a broad selection in what glyphs to use now, instead of having about 4 or 5 to pick from! Astral Communion is a rip from the PvP gear, so it’s only the raiders that will see benefit from it, though having said that, when we get to later tiers and Nature’s Grace uptime is adequate, we’ll end up Moonfire spamming anyway. Enchanted Bark is amazing, it allows us to have our burst in PvP instead of popping all CDs and ending up hoping that enemies don’t switch onto you for interrupts. I don’t know why Imbued Bark is also there, but it’s a welcome alternative. The glyph for CA is certainly interesting, it gives us a bit more opportunity to move around in our burst if we know it’s a movement-heavy fight, without being penalised too hard for it.

Sudden Eclipse is primarily a PvP glyph, and it’s also a grab from PvP gear (which makes it look like Blizz have realised that we need these as base in PvP, which is good, as it opens up more things for us to play with in the new PvP sets). Shapemender gives us fairly decent survivability, especially in PvP where we can powershift our way out of roots/slows, and then heal at the same time… I wonder if form switching will get a cooldown as a result. Moonwarding sounds like a great raiding glyph to me, as most raid-wide effects in encounters are not affected by armour – so the extra health for progression, especially with HotW losing its 6% stamina buff, will be a great boon for us Boomers! Finally, Glyph of Travel brings Travel Form up to the standards of standard mounts, so we can still have our instant-mount in Warlords (with the loss of our flight form for the first few patches).

Other Druid Changes

Druids seem to have a lot of love for Feral and Guardian specs in the next expansion, as well as Resto getting a bit of love here and there, but the main changes I can see that will affect Balance in WoD are:

  • As Symbiosis will now RIP in peace, all Druid specs will now get Survival Instincts, on a 2min CD, that reduces damage taken by 70%. Ferals/Guardians get compensated by having two charges of this.
  • Tranquility has had its complexity reduced a significant amount – instead of having 5 different targets per tick, a short HoT, stacking effect, and being varied strength by raid size, it will now just heal every raid member every 2secs for 8 seconds. No more HOT, no more stacks, no more limitations on how many it heals each tick, no more fluff. The overall healing provided shouldn’t change (you know, post-squish numbers).
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