Ironically, Balance is anything but… (Part One)
When I began playing Balance, it was out of necessity rather than any real desire. I was Horde at the time, and we had more than enough regularly signing tanks and were in need of ranged DPS players, being heavily saturated with melee players as we were.
I enjoyed the new version of Balance and actually still do. I like how it plays, especially in comparison to the older Eclipse mechanic based version of Balance that had been done away with. Yes it is now much simpler, but that is to its benefit IMO.
However, the main problem that Balance has seen all expansion so far, and one that looks certain to continue, is the damage ceiling for the spec. Damage ceilings are where my main complaint lies with Balance and by damage ceiling what I’m talking about is the maximum, un-cheesed damage potential for a spec.
I should clarify that by uncheesed, I mean no padding, no weird raid comps to boost one player’s output, no exploiting of mechanics etc. So I essentially ignore the top 10 to 15% of logs on the likes of Warcraftlogs.com, as this sort of ranking abuse is rife throughout the community.
Not that there’s anything really wrong with that per se, as it harms no-one really, beyond skewing average rankings.
So given that we’re ignoring the padders, exploiters and unique raid comps designed to boost a single player’s damage, the ceiling for most specs will be in the range that’s actually achievable for most players.
Now, with that established, dps specs will have their own damage ceilings. This is the maximum potential for any given spec, at any given item level.
This will also normally differ greatly on single target vs AoE heavy fights, Patchwerk style fights (where the player can stand still and just turret the boss) vs movement heavy encounters (Krosus Mythic, I’m looking at you kid).
Also normally, the specs that are best at these differing styles of fights will be different, as each class with a DPS spec will have at least one spec or talent build that lets that spec/class shine on several differing encounters in a given raid instance or tier.
At the present time of writing, at the tail end of Nighthold just prior to the opening of the Tomb of Sargeras in a few weeks, the Affliction Warlock for example, sits in the very unique position of being top, or close to it, in every single style of fight mentioned above.
It’s pretty close to top in pure single target encounters, rules the roost in AoE Heavy fights, and can be talented to be a very mobile spec that’s not punished by heavy movement fights. Its damage ceiling is the highest out of all the dps specs in the game right now and has unrivalled potential. Without serious nerfs it stands to still be king of the hill in Tomb and beyond.
Balance (and to a degree, Feral) however, can only look on in envy.
Balance has several glaring issues:
Very poor single target damage – Even when played well, the damage output of Balance in single target fights is well below even the average damage output of virtually every other damage spec in the game right now. It is in fact bottom of all DPS specs for single target fights.
Turret Spec – To even produce the above mentioned relatively poor damage output, Balance players must stand stock still and turret the boss 100%. It should be that if Balance players get the opportunity to stand and turret that they should produce damage numbers rivalling the best specs in the game. This however is far from the case, and Balance is rock bottom on meters even when given what should be ideal conditions to produce single target damage.
Exceedingly punished by any form of movement – In heavy movement fights, such as Mythic Krosus, Balance gets scant opportunity to turret damage into the boss. We’re restricted at times of constant movement, to spamming moonfire and sunfire on the target, which produces appallingly low damage, as you’d expect.
AoE is mediocre – Given that Balance is the weakest single target spec in the game at the moment, logically you’d be inclined to think that perhaps its strength lies in more AoE heavy encounters, such as Spellblade Aluriel and particularly Skorpyron? Well, yes and no. Yes, to the degree that in these few AoE heavy fights Balance is able to claw itself off the foot of the meters. No, because the best it can hope for is mid-table mediocrity. Even Balance’s most AoE heavy build will produce far less damage than a large number of specs that already also beat it in single target and movement heavy encounters.
When I moved to the Alliance side of the game a few months ago, it was in order to help my friends who were in need of a ranged DPS spec that had a healing off-spec. And that fitted perfectly for me, and over the intervening months I’ve done exactly that.
Throughout the past few months, I have both DPS’d and Healed all of Heroic Nighthold, multiple times over, and performed both roles on each of the 5 mythic bosses we’ve worked on (we’ve killed 4/10 and had begun work on the 5th, Spellblade).
All this time, while performing in my main spec of DPS, given the low damage ceiling that Balance is currently forced to work under, I’ve felt like I’ve been letting my guildmates down. I’ve been constantly low on our damage and dps meters, even when performing above average for my spec and item level.
In our most recent mythic kill, Krosus, at item level 907 I got 634,599 DPS which equated to 218.42m damage over the course of the 5 minutes and 44 seconds it took to down him.
That was good enough to rank a pitiful 13th out of the 14 DPS present that night.
This is despite being the 7th best geared damage spec in the raid, and performing to 61% of the potential for my gear at the time.
My dots, Sunfire & Moonfire had a respective uptime of 99.4% and 99.5%. I pushed out a Starsurge on average every 6 seconds, pushed out the maximum number of Moon cycles possible (8), pre and combat potted and also stayed alive for the entire 5:44 duration of the fight.
I even restricted my movement to micro-movement inside of GCDs outside of burning pitch phases (in other words I only moved when my Global Cooldown was cycling and I couldn’t cast anything else, even instant casts), so I honestly think there wasn’t much else I could do to increase my damage whilst still helping with mechanics such as burning pitch and helping deal with resultant add spawns.
Remember I said I generally ignore the top 10 to 15% of logs? The obvious cases here would be Balance players who ignore Burning Pitch and 100% tunnel on the boss, ignoring any and all adds.
So, at the end of the day, even when I play well above average for my above average gear, I’m still producing damage output that’s well below the rest of the raid:
1: 909 Demon Hunter: 870,244 DPS / 299.54m Damage
2: 907 Affliction Lock: 832,216 DPS / 286.45m Damage (Died)
3: 907 Ret Pally: 811,684 DPS / 279.39m Damage
13: 907 Balance Druid: 634,559 DPS / 218.42m Damage
14: 904 Frost DK: 553,893 DPS / 190.65m Damage
So you can see where my dissatisfaction lies. Even when I play the best I can, against the punishment of heavy movement, add switching (no dot ramp up), and having to out-range the boss to deal with mechanics (a window with no astral power generation or dps), Balance produces results that are frankly embarrassing:
I put myself under a lot of pressure to perform well each time we play, especially in fights like Krosus which is a very tight DPS check where high damage output is crucial.
I feel like even though I’m doing my best, I’m still letting the side down because I’m stuck with a spec that simply just doesn’t have a high enough damage ceiling to allow me to output better damage.
So, come Tomb of Sargeras I’ve decided to switch mains. But more of that in Part Two…