Cataclysm Classic Balance Druid PvE Guide

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Welcome to our Cataclysm Classic Balance Druid PvE guide. This comprehensive article will help you reach your full potential!

Cataclysm Classic Balance Druid PvE Guide

This is a compendium of information on raiding as a Balance Druid. This Cataclysm Classic Balance Druid PvE guide contains everything a beginner needs to achieve basic competence at raid DPS, as well as more detailed discussion for people more interested in understanding the theory or more advanced play. 

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Cataclysm Classic Balance Druid PvE Guide: Talents

Any PvE Balance spec will include the following talents: 

That leaves 8 points, 4 of which must be in the Balance tree, mostly up to you. Options for these talents:

1) Mana. Generally, mana is only a concern where you use Hurricane or Moonfire (without Lunar Shower) frequently. Even then, Dreamstate should cover your mana needs. It’s unlikely you’ll need more mana than that, but if you do, Furor is better than Moonglow.

2) Another utility. Solar Beam (silence), and Fungal Growth (snare) can have uses at various encounters.

3) Lunar Shower. This talent significantly improves the damage and efficiency of repeat Moonfire casts, but at the cost of energy usage. In situations where you’re spamming Moonfire (generally due to movement), you want the talent due to the DPS boost. But in general you work hard to avoid having to spam like that, and the talent also makes Eclipse control harder. Usually you will work without it.

4) Filler. If you don’t need any of the above. Owlkin Frenzy is some DPS contribution depending on encounter. Perseverance is a fine raid talent, especially when learning Heroics and more dangerous encounters.

Cataclysm Classic Balance Druid PvE Guide: Glyphs

Prime Glyphs

The best two are Glyph of Insect Swarm and Glyph of Moonfire. The third will usually be Glyph of Wrath. However, Glyph of Starsurge can be strong in a fight where Starfall is regularly used on cooldown on multiple targets. Even on a single target, it sometimes lets you line up every Starfall with a Lunar Eclipse, which is good for DPS (depends on haste and amount of movement). In these situations where Starfall is very strong, use Starsurge as your third Glyph.

Major Glyphs

Glyph of Starfall is a solid DPS increase. Glyph of Rebirth is also highly recommended in any raid situation-being able to Rebirth people safely is very valuable to your raid (especially with the new system of limited Rebirths).

The others are all situational:

Minor Glyphs

None of these add any DPS, so it’s entirely up to personal taste:

Cataclysm Classic Balance Druid PvE Guide: Races

Horde

Alliance

Cataclysm Classic Balance Druid PvE Guide: Gear

Stats

In roughly descending order of importance.

Intellect:

Intellect provides 1 spellpower and 0.00154% to crit per point. With Mark of the Wild, Heart of the Wild, and Astral Leather Specialization, it provides 1.169 spellpower and 0.0018% crit (555 points per 1% crit, a bit under 1/3 of a crit rating).

Similarly, with these talents, one point of Intellect increases your maximum mana by 17.53, and your regen from Replenishment, Euphoria, and Innervate correspondingly.

These things together make Int the best stat for both DPS and mana.

Spellpower:

Intellect, without the talent bonuses, crit bonus, or mana gains. Basically a weaker form of Intellect that only appears on weapons and trinkets, but is still good.

Hit rating/Spirit:

102.45 hit rating gives 1% to hit with spells, up to the cap of 1742 rating against a level 88 target. With Balance of Power, 1 Spirit and 1 hit rating are identical for gear selection purposes (if you ever play Resto at all you probably want to gem Spirit). 

Along with haste, hit is one of the best DPS stats. Remember that hit rating over the cap of 1742 does nothing, so you need to reforge hit to other stats if your gear has more than this amount (see below).

Haste rating:

128.05 haste rating gives 1% spell haste. Again a solid DPS stat. Along with hit, generally a stat you want to look for on gear. Haste adds extra DoT ticks at certain points (depending on which buffs you have up); WrathCalcs can compute them.

Mastery rating:

89.64 mastery rating adds 1% to our Eclipse bonus. Because only about 60% of our spells are cast during Eclipse, this makes it weaker than haste rating, point-for-point.

Critical strike rating:

179.28 crit rating gives 1% to crit. With Moonfury and a Chaotic Skyflare Diamond, crits with most of our main spells do 2.09 times the damage of non-crits. Because of the poor rating conversion on crit, it winds up as our worst secondary stat.

The stat priority can be briefly summarized as:

Int >> haste > hit/Spirit* = mastery > crit

More details on overall gear strategy at the end of this section.

*The actual per-point value of hit rating is largely irrelevant, as you always gear/reforge to as to remain hit capped. Therefore the effective value of hit/Spirit on gear is equal to whatever stat you reforge in/out of to maintain your hit cap, and in practice this is usually mastery.

Gems

Gem Burning Shadowspirit Diamond in your meta socket.

Gem Brilliant Inferno Ruby in all red/prismatic sockets, and in any blue/yellow socket where the bonus is worse than 20 Int (this is a good guideline-you can always use WrathCalcs to check in detail whether a socket bonus is worth it). 

In blue/yellow sockets where the bonus is 20 Int or better, use Purified Demonseye or Reckless Ember Topaz.

Set Bonuses

All of our T11 (Stormrider’s Regalia) and T12 (Obsidian Arborweave Regalia) set bonuses are good enough to be worth using if you have access to them. Upgrade smoothly from 4-piece T11, to 2 T11 + 2 T12, to 4 T12.

The 4-piece T13 is unusually weak, so upgrading is not a priority. At equal quality (Heroic/Normal), T13 will still be an upgrade over T12 due to the ilvl bump. Don’t rush to break your T12 bonuses though, especially at a quality downgrade. Use the spreadsheet for exact comparisons.

Trinkets

Most trinkets can be evaluated based on their stats just like any other item, if you use the uptime on their proc/use to compute an average stat value. WrathCalcs can also help you evaluate trinkets.

(fill T13 trinkets once there is further analysis)

The best trinket currently available is Variable Pulse Lightning Capacitor. After that, Necromantic Focus and Darkmoon Card: Volcano are similar, potentially depending on your current haste. 

Rune of Zeth, and Fiery Quintessence are close behind. Note: the ranking can vary greatly with haste, as some trinkets have passive haste after reforging that can push you to DoT breakpoints. The main point of VPLC and either Focus or Volcano being BIS should hold, but I’d always check WrathCalcs to compare other trinkets in detail for your current gear. These trinkets are all better than the T11 trinkets Heart of Ignacious and Theralion’s Mirror.

Mirror of Broken Images is quite useful in many PvE encounters. Macroing it to Barkskin is the easiest way to use it.

Finally, Sorrowsong can be surprisingly good at certain raid encounters. It will proc if you hit any low-HP adds, and so it can be extremely good if an encounter has frequent add spawns. In addition, it’s obviously worth using at any encounter where the most important DPS requirement is a final burn phase (it may be best for your raid, even if not best for your damage meters).

Activated Trinkets

Typically the best time to activate is with your DoT’s. Not only does this ensure you get a set of buffed DoT’s, but you often refresh DoT’s at the beginning of Eclipse. Even better, if it’s a 20 second buff (like many are), your 18 second DoT’s should get a second set of refreshes during the trinket activation. So, macroing trinkets to IS is not a bad plan if you don’t want to deal with them manually all the time (as you’ll see below in the DoT’s section, you generally refresh IS first).

Here’s a macro you can stick into any spell (such as IS) to activate a trinket without spamming error messages or sounds:

/script UIErrorsFrame:UnregisterEvent("UI_ERROR_MESSAGE"); 
/console Sound_EnableSFX 0 
/use 14 
/console Sound_EnableSFX 1 
/script UIErrorsFrame:RegisterEvent("UI_ERROR_MESSAGE");

(14 is the bottom trinket slot, 13 is the top. Make sure to put these lines before the spell cast in your macro.)

Consumables

Use Flask of the Draconic Mind or a Cauldron of Battle. Similarly use a 90 Int food (such as Severed Sagefish Head) or a Seafood Feast.

The best DPS potion is Volcanic Potion. You want to use it during Bloodlust. When you’re trying to completely maximize your DPS, remember you can click a potion just before combat starts (ask your tank to count down), and then be able to use another potion later in the fight.

Enchants

Excluding profession bonuses.

Advanced players may occasionally use other options such as Mastery on gloves and Haste on bracers, to craft their stats very exactly around a haste breakpoint.

Cataclysm Classic Balance Druid PvE Guide: Professions

Tailoring is slightly better than other professions: Lightweave Embroidery gives 580 Int for 15 seconds, 20% proc on spellcast, 60 second cooldown. The average benefit is around 140 Int, minus the 50 Int you usually have on your cloak, for an increase of around 90 Int.

Beyond that, most professions provide equal gains.

A macro similar to the one given above for trinkets can be used for glove tinkers–the glove slot is number 10.

The remaining professions are weaker:

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Cataclysm Classic Balance Druid PvE Guide: Gear Selection

General Principles

I’m not going to set out full BIS lists here, for a few different reasons. It’s best for you to read this guide until you understand the class well enough to choose gear based on the things I’ve said above. But here’s some overall advice to help provide some guidance.

Caster epics have Intellect, Stamina, spellpower in the case of weapons, and 2 out of the 5 secondary stats: crit rating, hit rating, haste rating, mastery rating or Spirit. Keep in mind a few rules of thumb, which are enough to get a quick estimate of the value of any piece:

Since the 5% Intellect from Leather Specialization is a strong bonus, you should generally ignore cloth gear.

To compare items more precisely and check for upgrades, use WrathCalcs to test different setups. You can also use WrathCalcs to compute DPS weights for all your stats for guidance. Generally though, the above rules are sufficient to figure out which of two items is better. See below for more on WrathCalcs.

Optimizing Gear, Gems, Enchants, and Reforges

Given all of the options we have for shuffling stats around now, it can be confusing to find the optimal way to select gear and gem/reforge it while remaining at the hit cap. Computational optimizers like Rawr can assist with this, but knowing the basic guidelines can save you a lot of time when going over your options. It’s best to mock up your setup in WrathCalcs and decide how you want to gem/reforge, and then actually do it all at once on live servers.

This is a basic way to approach reforging that covers most situations:

1) In each slot, put on your best individual item (see above), ignoring the hit cap. This will generally be your highest-ilvl leather spellpower item, preferring haste items and set bonuses where possible.

2) Gem in the way described above.

If you are under the hit cap of 1742, do the following until you hit 1742:

3A) On any crit/haste or mastery/haste pieces, reforge the crit or mastery to hit or Spirit (you may prefer Spirit so you can use your items for Resto spec as well).

4A) Reforge any other pieces. Remember that you can reforge hit onto an item with Spirit, and vice versa.

If you were over the hit cap of 1742, do the following until you’re just over 1742:

3B) Reforging hit/Spirit to haste on any non-haste items.

4B) Reforging hit/Spirit to mastery on any haste items.

5) Once you are at hit cap, if you have any unreforged items that don’t have haste, reforge the crit or mastery on them to haste.

6) There’s some possible further optimization by reforging crit/mastery to hit on some items and reforging back on others, or by changing between red and purple gems, but at this point you’ll have to work it our yourself or resort to automated tools.

Cataclysm Classic Balance Druid PvE Guide: Casting Mechanics

The first rule of DPS is to always be casting (or waiting out a GCD after an instant). Anytime a spell ends, you should already have queued your next one (see below). Don’t delay a cast to make a decision or react to proc–train yourself to start another spell regardless of what’s going on, and change the subsequent spellcast if necessary after you’ve had another second to think.

As a preliminary note, this type of macro might be useful for automatically assisting with your nukes when you have a raid member targeted:

#showtooltip
/use [@target, harm, nodead][@targettarget, harm, nodead][] Starfire

Spell Queueing

First, recall that the client processes events when you release the key. Keep that in mind for learning your timing. Some mods have options to change this if you like.

Cataclysm introduces a new ability queueing system, similar to the single-spell queue in WLK but more consistent and more customizable.

When you send a spell command to the server, if your character is unable to cast immediately (typically because it’s still casting or GCD-locked from your last spell), the server will see if you become ready to cast within a certain short window. If you do, it will begin the cast immediately. You can set the length of this window with an interface option called “Custom Latency Tolerance.” You want to set this value to a high enough amount that you can always press the next spell key comfortably before the current spell finishes, and never have a gap between casts. But you don’t want to set it too high, because you can’t change your mind after you queue a spell, so your reaction time is effectively slower if you “lock in” each spell a long time before it begins casting. Experiment and find something you’re comfortable with.

Cataclysm Classic Balance Druid PvE Guide: Spell Rotations

The Short Version

  1. Start by applying Insect Swarm and Moonfire, and casting Starsurge. Whenever either DoT falls off the target, or Starsurge comes off cooldown, recast it.
  2. Cast Starsurge until a Solar (Wrath) Eclipse procs, then switch to Wrath. Cast Wrath until a Lunar (Starfire) Eclipse procs, then switch back to Starfire.
  3. Repeat this Eclipse cycle, always keeping your two DoT’s on the target and using Starsurge, Starfall and Force of Nature on cooldown.

For more detail, continue to the following sections.

The Eclipse Rotation

You will generally operate in a four-step cycle.

  1. Pre-Lunar. Cast Wrath until the Eclipse buff appears (have some mod that will make it very obvious when you gain the buff).
  2. Lunar Eclipse. When you see the buff, finish casting your current Wrath and then cast Starfire for the duration of Eclipse.
  3. Pre-Solar. When Eclipse fades, continue casting Starfire until the Eclipse buff appears.
  4. Solar Eclipse. Cast Wrath for the duration. Continue casting when it ends to loop back around into step 1.

Basically, you cast Wrath until Lunar procs and cast Starfire until Solar procs. But once DoTs and other instants are involved, thinking in terms of the four-phase cycle helps you plan your casts well.

Subtleties of Transitions

Solar: You want to watch for when your Solar energy is at 80 or higher, so that you know your current Starfire cast is your last one, and queue a Wrath.

Lunar: Since Wrath gives its Eclipse energy upon landing, it’s a bit trickier to time the swap to Starfire correctly. If your Lunar energy as you start a Wrath is 74 or higher, it will be your last Wrath (because the one in the air will give 13 energy when it lands).

Do your best to avoid casting extra spells beyond what’s necessary to proc Eclipse.

If you use the mod Balance Power Tracker (below) things look slightly different. That mod can display a modified energy bar, which projects your energy value from currently casting/traveling spells, so all you have to do is check for when it reads 100. Remember that if you move or interrupt a cast though, your energy will appear to go back down.

Managing Eclipse

When you die, your Eclipse bar is reset to 0. So on learning attempts for any boss, you’ll get used to starting from 0 energy. As you attempt a particular fight more and more, you can sometimes plan out your Eclipses for certain AoE/movement phases. I’m not going to give a boss-by-boss guide here, but you should pay attention to the order of events in each fight and refine your routine. An important point is that you always have one nuke you can cast (Starfire or Wrath) that doesn’t move your Eclipse bar, so sometimes you can use that to control when you enter or leave Eclipse at various points in an encounter. 

At some encounters, planning out your Eclipses at specific points in the fight will be a major part of doing good DPS. Most commonly, when a fight has AoE phase, you will want to do whatever is necessary to make sure you are in Solar when that phase begins, by delaying Eclipses as necessary.

When you’re not wiping, you can start boss fights at 100 energy with a freshly proceed Eclipse. As you get near the end of the trash, go to the end of the Eclipse bar and stay there (by stopping Wrath/Starfire usage). During trash itself, where you’re often going to be using DoT’s and AoE spells, you can simply sit in Solar and use the Sunfire-based style (see below).

DoT Refreshing

Compared to WLK, our DoT’s are far stronger now. You want to do your best to maintain very high uptime on both of them. Typically, the only time you will hold up recasting of a DoT is if it falls off and the corresponding Eclipse is coming up very soon–you’ll wait one or two casts and refresh at the beginning of Eclipse. If both DoT’s are coming up at around the same time when you start Eclipse, remember that Nature’s Grace will only affect the second one, so you want to remember to use Insect Swarm first (because Moonfire/Sunfire is stronger than IS under either Eclipse).

Cataclysm changed the way DoT refreshing works–when you refresh a currently ticking DoT, you no longer waste a partial tick. Significantly, if you refresh a DoT when it has only one tick remaining, there is no loss at all. This means the optimal time to refresh a DoT is during its last tick, thereby maintaining true 100% uptime. Failing that, refresh at the same time you do now, as soon as it falls off. Note: since Moonfire and Sunfire are two different debuffs, we can’t benefit from the new DoT system when replacing one with the other. In that case you should wait for the old Moonfire/Sunfire to fall off.

DoT ticks use your spellpower, haste, and +% damage (e.g. Eclipse) values from the moment the DoT was cast–they do not update in real time until the next time you cast the DoT. Crit chance of the ticks, on the other hand, does change dynamically if you gain or lose crit buffs while the DoT is ticking. Because the entire DoT is affected by your stats at the moment of cast, there can be detailed decision making in when to apply them–see “Advanced Points” below for more.

Starsurge

Similarly to DoT’s, simply use this on cooldown or any time Shooting Stars procs. As with DoT’s, the only notable exception is if it would be the last spell before Eclipse. Then you can hold it up for one spell to cast it with the Eclipse buff.

It’s possible that the 4-piece tier 12 set bonus will make it beneficial to stop casting Starsurge when outside of Eclipse. I’ll update this when we work it out in more detail.

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Other Spells

/use Force of Nature
/petattack

This way, while your Treants are out, you can just press your FoN button again to make them attack your current target.

#showtooltip
/use [@target, help, nodead][@targettarget, help, nodead][@mouseover, help, nodead][] Thorns

(The mouseover part is mostly there for Resto purposes, but could still be handy).

#showtooltip
/use [nocombat] Revive
/stopmacro [nocombat]
/use Rebirth
/ra Rebirth on %t

Bloodlust and Heroism

With the WLK haste cap issues gone, our spells are now all buffed nicely by Bloodlust. Nothing significant will change during the rotation, except that DoT’s are exceedingly good. Make sure to DoT any possible target as soon as Bloodlust starts, probably even clipping any existing DoT’s at that point (use any timers here if possible, such as Berserking and your Volcanic Potion). If you have a Nature’s Grace near the beginning of Bloodlust, even better to spam DoT’s with.

Movement

The basic solution to any movement situation is to try to get the most out of DoT’s and Lunar Shower. Cast Moonfire the instant movement begins (or even just before) to start stacking the buff, then spam it on the target while running. Use IS, Wild Mushroom, and any other instants you have available (such as Shooting Stars) as well. Planting Wild Mushrooms at the enemy’s feet while moving takes some practice but is worthwhile; remember that you can wait until your next Solar Eclipse to detonate them.

Finally, if at all possible, you want to be in an Eclipse for movement, although you might often have little control over this. With Lunar Shower, the Moonfire spam can also build energy towards your next Eclipse, only if that Eclipse is Solar (this asymmetry will hopefully be fixed at some point).

It’s important to manage our DoT’s well during high-movement situations. You want to plan your casting so that you cast DoT’s (or other instants) while moving, and nukes while standing still. This requires you to be highly aware of both your spell rotation and your surroundings, so you can anticipate movement. It’s always worth delaying a DoT by a few seconds to cast it while moving, so you can cast another nuke while still. This also holds true for other instants.

Multiple Targets and AoE

In multi-target (3 or more) situations, Wild Mushroom and DoT’s tend to overpower all other spells due to their high DPET.

You want to be in Solar if possible for AoE phases. On encounters with a major AoE component, a big part of your planning should revolve around being in Solar Eclipse at the right time, due to the importance of Wild Mushroom.

If you have Lunar Shower and try to cast more than 14 consecutive Sunfires, your Eclipse will end, severely curtailing the DPS of your instants. In a situation where you would want to spam instants for more than 15 seconds, alternate Sunfire and Insect Swarm and add in frequent Wild Mushrooms. If the multi-DoT situation lasts more than 30-40 seconds, you have a few options:

Advanced Techniques

The Balance spec in Cataclysm has a number of interacting buffs and procs, making it currently one of the more complex classes in the game to play well. There’s no concise list of rules for what to cast and when (which is part of why this guide is so long); you need to have a solid understanding of how the different abilities work and use your judgment in a variety of situations. When you feel you’ve mastered the basic techniques described so far, here are more subtle points you can try to start working into your play:

Cataclysm Classic Balance Druid PvE Guide: Mods and Tools

Conclusion

Thanks for checking out our Cataclysm Classic Balance Druid PvE Guide. If it has been useful to you during your travels through Azeroth, please don’t hesitate to let us know!

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