Balance Druid: State of Health

It’s been over a year since players have been introduced to Legion and its class designs. After numerous changes, both design and tuning, we now have the one thing we were missing en mass: player experiences. What made Alpha and Beta testing difficult for many of us was trying to guess how we would all fit in the new expansion. What would our niche be? Would we even have a place? What are raids going to be like? We simply did not have that information to help shape the classes and specializations. With more experience and a better understanding of the game, we can explore our current issues and offer better solutions.

The evolution of Balance Druids was pretty wild. The spec was both horrid and enjoyable. Many players claim that Blizzard doesn’t give Balance Druid the attention it needs, but the reality is that they spent an awful lot of time on moonkins. Overhauled specs get the most attention, and we got plenty of it. (Have you seen how much the spec has changed from a year ago to today?) Many issues have plagued Balance Druids. We wanted a coherent toolkit with fun mechanics — good gameplay, basically.

Posted by Cyous (March, 2015)

– Empowerments are active too much (very high uptime). They don’t make our fillers feel empowered. They feel weak while unbuffed, yet normal while empowered.

– DOT Interaction is central to Balance Druids, yet there is no interaction that impacts gameplay. Making Shooting Stars baseline will fix this thematic issue, but it will also help alleviate some gameplay issues (especially in Multi-Target, and with Starfall’s ramp-up time and usage).

– Full Moon needs to be reduced in effectiveness, yet improved in gameplay usage, especially QOL. New Moon and Half Moon are unneeded, especially if you don’t plan to make them worthwhile in their own right.

This post was made before New Moon, Half Moon, and Full Moon each offered Astral Power. Back then it was Full Moon generating a whopping 100 Astral Power, but New Moon and Half Moon did not generate any Astral Power. At this time, these spells offer 10, 20, and 40 Astral Power respectively — quite the change. It’s fair to say that people like the gameplay of our Artifact spells.

Of course, this was a very long time ago and was during an active iteration cycle. Changes came every other day. We simply cannot expect another overhaul mid-expansion. There is so much to talk about, but let’s keep it short and sweet. Concise notes are better for everyone.

What has worked?

I’m not going to explain everything in great detail, just some notes as needed.

Spell Mechanics and Cohesion:
This is just a fancy way to ask, “Does the spec feel good?” And I believe it does feel good to play. While there are no reactive procs, such as Shooting Stars during MOP, WOD, and CATA, we have spells that make sense when used together. Referring to the New Moon, Half Moon, and Full Moon comments above, each spell in our toolkit has a purpose. With that said, it can feel repetitive at times.

Ease of Use and Complexity:
Moonkins are certainly simple. They aren’t too difficult to learn, but they do have some more complicated elements. While not overly-complex, I’m fairly certain the “Moonkin is boring” comments come from players that use Nature’s Balance. What were you expecting when you picked a talent that removed 2 buttons from your gameplay? Nature’s Balance is an issue which be mentioned in the next section. Overall, our gameplay is fluid and we fit into Blizzard’s design philosophy of “easy to learn, hard to master” (it’s not too hard to master, but various talents and legendary items make it very difficult.)

Legendary Items (Mechanics):
Whether or not you think legendary items are too strong, or don’t need a nerf is besides the point. We have items that influence your gameplay/decisions. Specifically, [The Emerald Dreamcatcher] worked out pretty well for players, albeit an unintended use of the spell. [Promise of Elune, the Moon Goddess] reinforces that hybrid-healer aspect druids are known for. It’s better than a flat damage modifier. You can actually interact with the game with your newfound mechanic, and that is a good thing. Not all legendary items are like this, and that is okay too. [Sephuz’s Secret] and the other “general” legendary items are meant to be simple because every player can use them.

What has not worked?

There is no way I’ll cover every single issue, but I’ll talk about a few critical issues.

Stellar Empowerment:
There is actually nothing wrong with Stellar Empowerment. The critical issue is that Blizzard has designed content that exclusively favors burst. Everything is about burst. Mythic+ dungeons favor burst. Raid mechanics favor burst. Questing as always favored burst. (We’re actually one of the best DPS specs for World Quests.) I am speaking only about Area-of-Effect mechanics in this section. Our niche is high-target sustained AOE. We are godlike when we get into this environment. But this environment doesn’t exist in PVE, so why should you believe me? Nothing fancy about it — Rated Battlegrounds. We are going to be extremely powerful in 7.1.5 (I wouldn’t think a PVP nerf is out of the question.) RBGs are a Moonkin’s PVE-fest. We spam Moonfire and Sunfire, drop Starfalls for a while and just obliterate people with Full Moon. We have overwhelming AOE damage, we rot away the enemy team.

If we could just get a PVE environment of 3min+ of 4+ targets, we’d be very competitive for top damage. (Any more targets than that and we’ll be godlike, just like our RBG damage.) However, this is not the case, and that is why Stellar Empowerment has not worked out too well. This issue relates to our ridiculous AOE Ramp-up time needs as well, but this all comes back to Stellar Empowerment.

Defensive Toolkit:
You may have forgotten about it, but we do have some defensive abilities. The issue is that our defensive toolkit is based on healing back damage and running away from incoming damage. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that avoiding damage in the first place is a decent first solution. However, we do not have kiting abilities that work together in gameplay. Many specs have slows and snares to run away from damage. We literally run away from damage. But at least we can self-heal right? It’s no more powerful than others than can kite enemies with slows and snares. They can kite reliably and they heal just as much. But these specs also have crowd control, something we lack. (Entangling Roots are terrible overall.) Another issue comes down to the arms race, a 30sec Displacer Beast is nothing compared to a 15sec Warrior Charge. No matter how good you are at kiting, you cannot escape the second time. Don’t worry though, you can Barkskin while stunned, that will buy you a second on your (inevitable) death.

A good way to see if our defensive toolkit is lacking is to watch 1v1 duels. It’s not about winning, it’s about how much the Balance Druid has to put forward to achieve a similar result. Without a doubt, Moonkin is awful at 1v1. We need a team of babysitters to enable our success. In which case, why babysit the Moonkin when you can bring a Shadow Priest or Mage and do the same thing more easily and with better results? The is the crux of the issue here — the effort/reward ratio is just not favorable.

Stale Gameplay:
This issue ties back to Nature’s Balance. I believe removing gameplay from a spec is perfectly okay. I do not, however, agree with the talent design overall. Part of my issue with Nature’s Balance is the talent row it sits on. Nature’s Balance shares a talent row with Fury of Elune and Stellar Drift. The game heavily favors single-target damage at this time, and Nature’s Balance is the best single-target DPS option because it’s the only option! Stellar Drift is going to be great for AOE. Fury of Elune is great for clump-AOE. Having your best overall DPS option remove gameplay from the spell list is, in my opinion, a stupid mistake that needs to be corrected. Making the best option easy is not that same as removing actions from your gameplay. This is the core issue behind “bland” gameplay. If Fury of Elune was more viable in today’s game environment, I’m sure people would have a different opinion of Balance Druid gameplay.

Related, Incarnation is still too good. It doesn’t change the gameplay like Stellar Flare, nor Soul of the Forest. Entirely passive talents are not bad. Entirely passive talents that are the best in all situations, however, are very bad for the game. Soul of the Forest is going to be fine in 7.1.5, mostly due to PVP. Stellar Flare needs to be heavily rewarded for the micromanagement. In addition, Stellar Flare has very little interaction with the rest of our talents. Would you take another look at Stellar Flare if it could trigger Shooting Stars? But again, what does the PVE environment favor? — Burst. Stellar Flare isn’t burst, but Incarnation certainly helps prolong the burst phases, especially when they’re always lined up with Bloodlust/Heroism.

What could work?

Offering solutions to existing issues.

Stellar Empowerment:
Nothing can be done until the next expansion. However, we can try to shift AOE damage out of Stellar Empowerment. All of these suggestions should be taken together. This is a band-aid first, but not an ideal solution. The goal here is to try to sell Warrior of Elune and Lunar Strike as solid AOE options while increasing both single-target by ~5% and AOE output by as much as 15%, and greatly improving our burst AOE in the process.
— Owlkin Frenzy and Warrior of Elune increase the critical strike chance of Lunar Strike by 100%.
— Warrior of Elune passively increases the splash damage of Lunar Strike to 100%.
— Dark Side of the Moon changed to be Crit Hit Damage (+10% per rank.).
— Buff Moonfire, Sunfire, and Stellar Flare by 25%.
— Full Moon hits all enemies for 75% of the initial damage.

Incarnation for over 5 years:
I think it’s time Incarnation just sorta…went away so other talents could shine. This change is an indirect nerf to Incarnation. Let it fill the burst option, yes, but it’s still a great talent overall. This has a lot of implications for gameplay, and will make Stellar Flare and Soul of the Forest feel like better picks in more situations.
— Buff Celestial Alignment to last 20sec (up from 15sec).

Defensive Toolkit:
I really don’t think we need to much here. Small changes can have a huge impact. Patch 7.1.5 did a lot of good, but PVE is still an issue.
— Stellar Empowerment or Stellar Drift slows enemies by 50%. This effect is halved against players (down to 25%).

Stale Gameplay — Nature’s Balance:
I think Blessing of An’she should be baked into Fury of Elune, as a passive effect. Blessing of An’she isn’t offering any practical use at this time. I don’t think Stellar Drift and Nature’s Balance need to change, only that Fury of Elune offer better single-target damage. In addition, the availability of Fury of Elune is a huge change by itself. This “Blessing of An’she” idea correlates to the suggestion below.

Stale Gameplay — Fury of Elune too complex:
I honestly believe Fury of Elune is fine as it as, but respect the fact that it is extremely difficult to use. I think making it fixate to your target is all it needs. I firmly support the idea that the gameplay is about trying to maximize your Astral Power generation, but I do think Fury of Elune should cost a fixed amount and last a specific time. Correlating to the suggestion above, the extra Astral Power is fairly close to the damage benefit of Nature’s Balance by itself.
— Fury of Elune’s radius increased to 5 yards. (Up from 3 yards.)
— Fury of Elune benefits from Mastery. (No longer needs 25% buff from 7.1.5 patch)
— Fury of Elune passively generates 1 AP every 1 sec while in combat. (Modified by Haste.)
— Fury of Elune fixates to your target.
— Fury of Elune no longer consumes Astral Power over time.
— Fury of Elune costs 80 Astral Power and lasts 12sec.
— Fury of Elune’s initial damage tripled. (Hits like a Starsurge.)

Posted in Legion, Moonkin Balance DPS, Written by Cyous


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