Saturday, 24 July 2010

Balance Identity Redux

Define what a Balance Druid is; given identity to each of Balance's schools, Arcane and Nature. From that identity, build around set themes (which the spec is lacking, imo) so as to create a unique caster centered around the Eclipse mechanic and balancing Nature and Arcane magics.


Caveat! This is my opinion and I am very well aware that the class has yet to receive much of a pass for Cataclysm. I am very content to sit back and see how the class unfolds, but I still worry that some concerns could be left unaddressed :)

There is currently little reason shown within the Druid class as to why Balance Druids use both Arcane and Nature magic given that both schools functionally have the same offensive characteristics. Only with utility and aesthetics do the schools diverge, where other classes' schools of magic have clear distinctions on functionality and mechanics, as well as the talents to support such.

eg. Fire burns (Ignite & Flame Shock etc) and hits hard (Lava Burst & Fireball etc), Frost freezes (Frost Nova & Huntering Cold etc) and slows (Chills & Frost Shock etc), Shadow drains and weakens (Affliction, Diseases, DoTs, curses etc). For Mages, Arcane has strong utility and 'tricks'; for Shaman, Nature is thunder and lightning (and healing, Druids too).

Yet for Balance Druids, Nature is what? Roots and trees? Arcane is stars? Functionally, this is barely represented within the class and a Nature damage spell is the same as an Arcane damage spell. The Balance Druid schools have no identity, which leads Balance to lacking a core to build around.

There seems to be very little cohesiveness as to what a Balance Druid is. Each spell operates in total independance, with little sense of unity within each school and within the class. Doing one thing will not set up another, casting any particular spell will not affect the functionality of anything else, and DoTing and nuking is all there is. For some, this may be fine, but, having played all other classes extensively (except Hunters), I just don't find this is exciting!

It is here where the Eclipse mechanic has so much potential to be the core of what a Balance Druid is. Eclipse has a chance to divide Nature and Arcane, and express the identity of each school.

It has, for example, the potential to:
    allow the Balance Druid to 'go Lunar Eclipse!' and then burst something down with Nature damage, and then modify our nature utility (chain Roots, super Typhoon, swarming Insect Swarm, etc); allow one to 'go Solar Eclipse!' and pull out of lasers (AoE dmging Starfall-esque Starfire impacts, more Starfall stars, etc).

These are random ideas to give flavour to the Balance Druid, both in PvE and PvP. With a solid interation of Eclipse, the choice of 'going Solar' or 'going Lunar' would give the class this sense of Balance! Adding in extra spells and mechanics to support this would go a long way to turning the Balance Druid into a unique caster (eg. a cooldown to trade a Solar Eclipse for a Lunar Eclipse, a timer mechanic like recently implemented on beta to prevent consequetive Lunar (or Solar) Eclipses)

Other Balance Druid related random commments:

What is the difference between Insect Swarm and Moonfire? Moonfire has upfront damage, but, in my opinion, that is little reason to justify why we have two DoTs that are functionally identical. It is also why I have suggested in the past to have IS somehow spread to other targets to capitalise on it being a swarm of insects, because it does nothing but 'cast and forget-until-refresh' damage at the moment.

Druid spells are lonely and don't interact with each other. For example, Insect Swarm is so completely indepentant of all other spells, talents and mechanics that its existence is only justified by 'it does damage'. Quite simply, Insect Swarm and Moonfire are boring given that they both fulfill the same role as a DoT, especially when Moonfire straight up trumps IS. I believe IS and MF would be better off having some reason to exist as discrete spells, if not simply just having the damage of IS merged into MF as one spell.
eg. To follow a theme of Nature being more bursty, Insect Swarm having a reduced duration, increased damage and a cooldown.

There are also few tactics or strategy to apply when casting Moonkin offensive spells other than Starfall, which is the only dynamic Balance spell given that its damage will vary depending on when you choose to cast it (this kind of dynamic is good!).

Instead of straightup mana regen, how would free-proccing Lifeblooms feel to the spec? eg, chance on to proc a free Lifebloom (which heals, obviously, but also then gives mana on bloom). Class cohesiveness!


I posted this on the Beta forums as part of a Balance Druid discussion for the latest build :)

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