(Im)Balance

Introduction

We hear a lot about how, generally speaking, the Balance spec is not viable and how no one wants a Balance druid in his or her group. While there are Balance druids out there who are doing their spec and their class proud, the fact remains that Balance is the least traveled path. So, the best place to start examining this spec is at the beginning: the first tier.

To better understand what may be lacking for druids, let’s compare the first tier of Balance to that of the Shaman’s Elemental and that of the Priest’s Shadow. Since the shaman is also a hybrid and relies on Nature spells, it makes for an intuitive choice for comparison. The priest may be less of an intuitive choice, but since Shadow is an “off-spec,” given the class’s primary role as healer, this tree provides a comparable example for Balance as an “off-spec” tree. And given Shadow’s popularity, it also provides a model for how an “off-spec” can be useful and desirable.

 

Tier 1 Talents

Druid:
Starlight Wrath: Reduces the cast time of your Wrath and Starfire spells by 0.5 sec.

Nature’s Grasp: While active, any time an enemy strikes the caster they have a 35% chance to become afflicted by Entangling Roots (Rank 1). Only useable outdoors. 1 charge. Lasts 45 sec.

Improved Nature’s Grasp: Increases the chance for your Nature’s Grasp to entangle an enemy by 65%.

 

Shaman:
Convection: Reduces the mana cost of your Shock, Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning spells by 10%.

Concussion: Increases the damage done by your Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning and Shock spells by 5%.

 

Priest:
Spirit Tap: Gives you a 100% chance to gain a 100% bonus to your Spirit after killing a target that yields experience or honor. For the duration, your Mana will regenerate at a 50% rate while casting. Lasts 15 sec.

Blackout: Gives your Shadow damage spells a 10% chance to stun the target for 3 sec.

Commentary

Nature’s Grasp does not offer a Balance druid optimal effect. This lack of utility is due to two major reasons:

1) Nature’s Grasp does not provide any bonus to ranged DPS since it requires the druid to be within melee range of a foe. A shaman or priest obtains more powerful ranged DPS effects from Concussion or Blackout.

2) Nature’s Grasp cannot be used indoors. The shaman and priest have full use of both of their first tier talents in all situations, while the druid does not.

What is a possible alternative then? Remove Nature’s Grasp from the Balance tree and make it a trainable spell. Removing it will then open up a slot to place Celestial Focus, thus giving druids a comparable tier 1 talent to the priest’s Blackout, as well as offering a casting bonus that Balance druids currently cannot obtain at lower levels.

With this change, the Balance tree would possess a stronger initial attraction for lower-level druids.

Worth noting here is that I have only looked at the first-tier and so things could get better as a druid gets deeper into the Balance tree. My intention in this post is to point out how the first tier doesn’t provide a strong impetus for lower-level druids to enter the tree, especially in regards to Nature’s Grasp. It simply doesn’t compare in desirability alongside the DPS/Tanking benefit of Feral Aggression and the buff of Improved Mark of the Wild.

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