Updated Wed, Nov 19, 2008 by Messiah
In this second article covering the new Wrath of the Lich King (WotLK) Druid talent trees we look at the balance tree. This is the tree that Druids focus on if they want to become spells casting Moonkin, commonly called "Boomkin". While originally in the game it was viewed as a fairly weak tree, it has gained abilities and power over time and become quite popular. The tree allows players to do excellent spell damage while still maintaining the ability to heal in an emergency.
This is based off of the talents as of Beta 3.0.1 and they are in no way finalized. Please keep this in mind as many things are likely to change before Blizzard releases the final version of the game.
There have been no changes to the first two tiers so far in the beta from the current Burning Crusade version of the talent tree.
Tier three gets two changes from what is currently there, both modified existing talents.
The talent Brambles just increased damage by thorns and roots by up to 75%. In WotLK it is set to also increases damage from treants by up to 15% and allow damage done by your treants and any damage done to you while you have barkskin up to daze the target for 3 seconds up to 15 % of the time. This change makes the talent far more desirable, as previously it was skipped over by most players. However since any deep balance player tents to use Treants often, the increased damage and the daze effect make the talent extremely beneficial, especially in PvP.
Natures Reach has always been useful due to its ability to extend the range of your balance spells by up to 20%. However, now it also lowers your threat by up to 30%. Since Boomkin tended to have threat issues when geared well, this is a very useful talent and should be considered a must have by PvE players and especially those that raids.
No changes took place in the tier 4 talents.
In tier five the Lunar Guidance talents gets what looks like a nerf as it goes from increasing spell damage and healing by up to 25% of your intellect to only increasing spell power by up to 12%. Two things to keep in mind here though, the first being that spell coefficients have changed, and the second being spell power replaces damage and healing and effects both differently. It is still a nerf though and will probably be skipped by many players.
In tier 6 you now find the old tier 7 talent called Dreamstate. It still regenerates mana up to 10% of your intellect even when casting. This is useful since Boomkins tend to run out of mana quickly.
Tier 7 has the talent that really defines this tree, Moonkin form. The base talent gains a buff with the new ability to regenerate 2% of your mana on any critical hit from a spell! Moonkin had three main issues prior to the WotLK beta (Gear, Mana, Threat) and it looks like this ability and the new Natures Reach do a lot to remedy the two issues based on talents.
There is also a new talent called Improved Moonkin Form which provides up to a 100% chance for players affected by the Moonkin aura to gain 20% spell haste when they critically hit with a spell for 8 seconds with a 30 sec cooldown. 20% spell haste adds up to a whole lot of extra DPS if you cast the right spells to fit in between global cooldowns. This is a great new ability that will probably have casters begging for a Moonkin in their raid group.
There is a new talent in the eighth tier called Owlkin Frenzy. It gives you up to a 15% chance to enter a frenzy whenever you are hit while in Moonkin form. When it triggers it increases the damage you cause by 10% and you become immune to spell pushback for 10 seconds when casting balance spells.
This spell is situational. It is very good for soloing and PvP where you will be hit. However in PvE groups or raids, you should never be hit other than by AoE damage, so it is not useful.
Tier nine has three new talents: Typhoon, Eclipse, and Gale Winds.
Typhoon grants access to a new spell that is an AoE attack. It hits everyone in its AoE for damage and throws them back 5 yards. This provides Boomkin another option for AoE casting and an interruption ability to casters. The damage caused is not very big, so the spell damage coefficient may determine how useful it is when AoE'ing.
Eclipse is what appears to be a very useful ability that grants up to a 60% chance for each of starfire and wrath to buff the other ones damage by 10% for 30 seconds, with a 2 minute cooldown. This means that as you go through your spell rotation casting each one, they will buff the other. With a 60% chance to take effect you can almost guarantee it will be up every 2 minutes that the cooldown is down. Being so late in the talent tree though, it would be nice to see a bigger damage buff as essentially it is only a 2.5% damage boost when averaged out as being in effect 1/4 of the time..
Gale Winds is the last of the new abilities in tier nine, and it increases the damage done by your hurricane and typhoon by up to 50% and the range of your cyclone by up to 4 yards. The increases AoE damage will be important for raiders, while the cyclone range will be important for PvP players. For 2 points it is a pretty good ability, as long as you use the spells it effects.
The new tenth tier ability is called Earth and Moon. It grants up to a 100% chance that your wrath and starfire spells place a debuff on the target increasing all nature and arcane damage against that target by 2% for 12 seconds. Better yet it stacks up to 3 times! Because this is a debuff on the target your whole raid benefits from it, meaning any arcane mage, other druid or shaman will really love having you around.
The new final tier talent for the balance tree is called Starfall. It provides yet another AoE spell that affects all targets within 30 yards dropping starts on them (up to 20) doing direct damage and placing a DoT effect on the targets hit. Depending again on how much of a damage coefficient this gets, it could be a great spell.
Teamed up with Hurricane, Typhoon and now Starfire, Boomkins may just become AoE champs! The only issue is the cooldown on each, but in a raid AoE packs are generally separated by some time anyway.
There are a lot of changes in the Balance tree. In my opinion Blizzard did a good job addressing the past issues with the spec, mainly being mana and threat. They also gave the tree some serious AoE ability, which is extremely nice for PvE instance or raid players. In addition they provide even more benefit to the caster around them in group. This means that they will be even more sought out for raid groups.
I think most players will be pretty happy with the changes, other than the nerf to Lunar Guidance. Oh well, I guess it can't all be good. Overall Blizzard has done another good job on tweaking a spec to ensure it is both interesting and useful for all aspects of the game.