As we near the end of the beta cycle ahead of the launch of Shadowlands on November 23rd, Blizzard appears to be putting the finishing touches on class and systems tuning. Balance Druids were in a dire state for a while, but the closer we get to release the more favorable things are looking for the class. The spec has seen a slew of changes since the last “State of” article mostly for the better. It’s looking like it’ll be both a fun and top performing specialization in the first season of Shadowlands pve content.
Hopefully by the end of this article you’ll have a better idea of how to feel about the class going into Shadowlands.
Check out all our Shadowlands Launch Opinion articles by our Class Writers and members of the community! Click on any of the colored specs below to see what articles we’ve released so far.
These guides were meant to give you a preview of what’s to come in the expansion, but don’t worry — our full Shadowlands Class Guides will be updated soon!
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Class Changes While Leveling
If you’ve been keeping up with Boomkin on the Shadowlands pre-patch you’ll notice nothing has changed in the way of talents going from lvl50-60 but there are a few leveling perks for your abilities, one of which has a notable impact on gameplay.
- Lvl 52 – Regrowth Rank 2
This spell learned by all Druid specializations is pretty inconsequential but a little extra oomph if you find yourself in a dangerous situation isn’t a bad thing.
- Lvl 54 – Starfall Rank 2
This is the kind of impact you love to see. A sore point of pre-patch Moonkin that you may have noticed is just how often you need to recast your dots in a cleave or aoe situation. With this level-up trait the globals you spend applying dots are drastically cut down and the spec feels much more whole.
- Lvl 56 – Entangling Roots Rank 2
This one seems more like a pvp thing to be honest. The difference in how long it takes to break roots is hardly noticeable in pve.
- Lvl 58 – Starsurge Rank 2
Each Starsurge empowers your active Eclipse by an additional 2%. You could go without knowing this exists at all as it has no impact on gameplay, but the small power boost it provides is nice.
Covenant Abilities and Best Soulbind
This section will cover all four Covenants with a description of both the class and signature abilities.
- Kindred Spirits
Likely the go to covenant for Balance going into Shadowlands. This is probably the most polarizing covenant choice at the moment and the hardest one to use to its full potential. The thing people seem to dislike the most about this ability is that half of its damage does not show up in your own damage breakdown but rather in the breakdown of the person you’re linked to. On top of that, the ability requires you have intimate knowledge of other specializations’ damage patterns on any given encounter in order to know who you should be linking to, and it is very punishing to mistime. However, this also ties into its greatest strength. The versatility Kyrian offers by being able to always link to the best class for any given situation, as well as the fact that it is equally beneficially on single target, cleave, and aoe puts this ability at the top.
- Warning for this ability: Do not use the conduit Deep Allegiance ever. As of writing this the conduit is a DPS loss in all situations. You do not want this ability on a shorter cooldown, as it desyncs the ability with Celestial Alignment, all on-use trinkets that Balance may want to use, and the cooldowns of your chosen bond.
- Summon Steward
A nice addition to your survivability. The steward gives you what is basically a 3rd healing potion alongside Healthstone and Spiritual Healing Potion that restores 20% health once per encounter. It also removes all bleeds, curses, poisons and diseases.
- Ravenous Frenzy
A rather straightforward ability that it used in conjunction with Celestial Alignment to really give Moonkin some potent burst on a 3m CD. This ability makes Venthyr a top contender for M+ players, and a good overall choice if you’d rather not deal with the complexity of Kindred Spirits.
- The potency conduit Endless Thirst is a strong choice when playing Venthyr as it enhances Ravenous Frenzy, but not necessarily a must-have anymore. Warning for this ability: Inexplicably this ability is the only one for any class and covenant to have a downside built in, so if you like to occasionally pvp at all you should stay far far away from this thing.
- Door of Shadows
Another straightforward ability, this one lets you teleport a sizable distance after a short cast-time. Not much practical use in M+ but one that may allow you to avoid specific mechanics during a raid encounter, such as crossing a void zone covering the floor that would tick on you if you tried to walk or Wild Charge over it.
- Adaptive Swarm
Essentially a damage-over-time/healing-over-time version of the monk ability Chi Wave. This ability will start out either as a dot on your target or hot on an ally depending on who you cast it on and then jump to a new target, affecting 3 targets total. It also serves to amplify any active dot or hot effects on the target by 30%, increasing further if you have the potency conduit Evolved Swarm equipped. An effective covenant choice when you’re fighting a low number of targets or want to play multiple druid specs effectively, but not the best choice for any situation. Notably this ability is nearly nonexistent when it comes to aoe situations and as such this covenant is a bad choice if you play M+ often.
A 4 second channel for a 20% health shield, increased up to 50% if channeled near enemy corpses. This signature ability is a pretty versatile survivability tool, and like all absorb effects it can be used to pre-mitigate incoming damage which can be especially strong against very hard hitting M+ and raid bosses.
Night Fae Abilities
- Convoke the Spirits
Probably the ability that has changed the most during the alpha/beta cycle of Shadowlands, and one of the most poorly implemented ideas in the game. No Druid specialization has a 2min cooldown, guaranteeing this ability will frequently be out of sync for all Druid 3 minute cooldowns such as Celestial Alignment. The “flurry” of 12 spells that it casts (nerfed from 16 a couple months ago) has several drawbacks that make this ability that used to be very fun and satisfying to use into something not a great cooldown.
You must not be in melee range of any mob, or it will cast Rake and Thrash which do pitiful damage.
- You must not be low on hp, or be grouped with anyone low on hp, or it will cast extra Regrowths and Rejuvenations.
- You must have already dotted all targets with Moonfire, or it’ll waste a large number of casts preferring to Moonfire your enemies.
- Finally, if you’ve met all these conditions, the amount of Wraths and Starsurges it will cast is completely random, and the targets chosen (if there is more than 1 present) are completely random, making this ability increasingly less ideal as the number of targets increases beyond the first.
In theory this ability could be a lot of fun. If the spells it cast were more strictly tied to your form it could be truly great. For example, if you wanted to choose to only cast healing spells you could enter caster form. But it should not cast healing spells in Moonkin Form, and it especially should not be casting Thrash or Rake outside of Bear/Cat forms.
If you’re dead set on choosing Night Fae, be sure to use the conduit Conflux of Elements to boost Convoke for single target scenarios.
Strikingly similar to the old Druid talent Displacer Beast, this signature ability instantly teleports you forward 15 yards and increases movement speed for 12 seconds, and can be recast twice during the duration to teleport again. One of the more powerful signature abilities, unfortunately dragged down by being tied to a terrible class ability for Druid.
Overall Night Fae is a missed opportunity to make something fun and unique, and I can’t recommend this covenant unless you’re a diehard for the aesthetic.
Assuming you choose Kyrian, it’s a pretty clear “choice” what the best Soulbind is. Pelagos is an absolute demon, specifically his initial ability Combat Meditation. This ability gives you a ton of Mastery any time you use Kindred Spirits, which is a top stat for Balance in all situations. You can also maintain the buff for some time by picking up the small blue orbs that will drop in a 10 yard radius around you. And seeing as Pelagos is the best option on any number of targets, there is really no reason to look at the other Soulbinds. Below you can find the ideal route for the Pelagos tree as well as which conduits to take.
It is generally recommended on any Soulbind you choose to use to pick the route that gets you 2 Potency Conduit slots. Any other choices you make are generally low impact and affect whether you have extra Finesse or Endurance conduits, or are choices between non-combat utility traits. In this example, I’ve chosen Bond of Friendship in the 5th row, but you could just as easily choose Cleansed Vestments if you wanted extra cloth and enchanting materials occasionally, and you are free to swap between the two at any time. In the 7th row you have a choice between an Endurance or Finesse slot. For general purposes the Endurance slot will be more useful in order to increase your survivability, but if you wanted stronger utility for your group/raid you could again swap at any time to take the Finesse slot.
This section will cover all of the Potency, Endurance, and Finesse conduits available for Balance Druids.
- Fury of the Skies – The best option for Balance Druids in all situations except for very large aoe (10+ targets) where you would not be applying Moonfire. Having both Moonfire and Sunfire applied to your target(s) increases the damage they take from Arcane and Nature damage respectively, with the added bonus of double dipping on Astral spells such as Starsurge and Starfall.
- Umbral Intensity – The second best, this conduit increases the damage bonus of your Eclipse to your Wrath and Starfire spells by a flat amount. Straightforward and simple, this is a small bonus to both single target and cleave damage.
- Stellar Inspiration – This conduit has a chance to double the extension to your dots provided by Starfall Rank 2 or double the empowerment bonus of Starsurge. While this effect is a bit lackluster for single target, it can be used in extended aoe situations to good effect in theory. In practice it’s unlikely you’ll use this conduit much if at all, because it’s difficult to know exactly how long mobs will live and if the extra dot extension (which is only a chance and not guaranteed) will even be beneficial.
- Precise Alignment – Another straightforward conduit, this one increases the duration of Celestial Alignment by a flat amount. It does not affect the Legendary item Primordial Arcanic Pulsar. This conduit is the likely 2nd choice for massive aoe, beating out Fury of the Skies.
- Deep Allegiance (Kyrian only) – As mentioned above in the covenant section, this conduit is a DPS loss in all situations. Avoid at all costs.
- Endless Thirst (Venthyr only) – A powerful option if you’re a Venthyr Moonkin for low target count situations, but gets out-scaled by other options as the number of targets goes up.
- Evolved Swarm (Necrolord only) – Similar to Venthyr’s conduit, the Necrolord potency loses value at high target counts but is strong on 1-2 targets.
- Conflux of Elements (Night Fae only) – Different covenant, same story. Avoid using this conduit if you’re fighting more than 1 target.
- Ursine Vigor
The most general-purpose Endurance conduit, this one gives your Bear Form more hp and armor for 4 seconds after shifting into it. Quite a powerful augment for bear form’s general use as Moonkin, which is to quickly gain extra max HP to survive a large hit, or just in general if you’re trying to avoid dying.
- Tough as Bark
Situationally strong if the raid encounter requires a shorter cooldown on Barkskin. I’ve often found myself in encounters where I would be a lot safer if Barkskin were available slightly more often, and this conduit is the solution.
- Innate Resolve
Pretty weak as far as defensive options go but certainly not useless. A little extra healing could save your life, but you’d probably prefer the other two Endurance conduits in almost any situation.
- Front of the Pack
Probably the best all-around Finesse conduit. The increased duration of Stampeding Roar is great for Shroud of Concealment skips in M+ and the extra range is great for a raid environment where you might not normally reach everyone.
- Tireless Pursuit
Decent option for open world content but nothing to write home about, you retain some speed when exiting travel form for a short time.
- Born of the Wilds
Lowers the cooldown of your level 35 row talent. Situationally useful for M+ or maybe pvp.
- Born Anew
The latest attempt at borrowed power for Rebirth, your target gets a speed boost and a 20 main stat food buff. Maybe good if your friends die a lot, or for M+ so nobody is tempted to stop and waste everyone’s time by getting a food buff after they die.
This section will cover the various Legendary item effects available to Balance Druids in Shadowlands.
- Balance of All Things – The top pick for Moonkin single target by a large margin, and not a bad pick for aoe either. This legendary gives you an increased crit rate to your Arcane or Nature spells decaying over 5 seconds whenever you’re in the respective Eclipse, double-dipping during Celestial Alignment for Astral spells like Starsurge and Starfall. This reinforces the necessity of pooling Astral Power towards the end of your Eclipse states in order to slam 3 Starsurges at the beginning of your next one. The only unfortunate side effect of this legendary is that it makes crit a rather undesirable stat for Boomkin, making gearing up more difficult/annoying. You’ll likely want to craft this legendary first at the start of Shadowlands.
- Primordial Arcanic Pulsar
A slightly different and better take on the azerite trait Arcanic Pulsar. This legendary effect builds up by spending AP, rather than by connecting Starsurges like the BFA version. Every 300 you spend gives you 12 seconds of Celestial Alignment, making this a very strong option for both M+ and aoe raid encounters. It will also carry over any active Eclipse empowerment bonuses on your currently active Eclipse when you activate it, further increasing its power if you plan accordingly.
- Timeworn Dreambinder
Inspired by The Emerald Dreamcatcher legendary from Legion, but similar to Pulsar it’s been tuned to affect Starfall now too! Whenever you cast Starsurge or Starfall, you reduce the cost and increase the damage of subsequent casts by 10% for 5 seconds, stacking 2 times. Unfortunately, this legendary is tuned a bit too low and won’t be used. But there is potential in the future when our haste values are higher, and/or if Balance of All Things catches a nerf.
- Oneth’s Clear Vision
Inspired by Oneth’s Intuition legendary from Legion. This one has a chance to make your next Starsurge free whenever you cast Starfall, and vice versa. Unfortunately this one is also tuned a bit low and won’t be used in any situation. It’s unlikely to see play at all this expansion without serious changes to the class, or buffs to this power’s effect.
Available to all Druids
- Circle of Life and Death
The most useful generic effect, this legendary causes your dots to deal their full damage in 25% less time, and hots in 15% less time. This legendary is competitive with Primordial Arcanic Pulsar as the best cleave and aoe legendary option, while also being a viable legendary for Restoration. If you don’t main Moonkin and/or play Resto often, consider crafting this instead of Pulsar.
- Oath of the Elder Druid
Inspired by Ekowraith, Creator of Worlds from Legion, this legendary increases your chosen Affinity’s passive effects by 75%, and causes you to activate Heart of the Wild for 10 seconds once per minute when shifting into your Affinity form. This legendary has very powerful utility, and potentially survivability tied in if you take Guardian Affinity. However, because you can only equip 1 legendary at a time it is probably never going to be used. Hopefully Blizzard reconsiders this stance at some point during Shadowlands, but until then this will have niche uses at best.
- Lycara’s Fleeting Glimpse – This generic legendary based on an Anima Power serves no real purpose for any Druids. I don’t recommend crafting it.
- Draught of Deep Focus – Another useless legendary for Balance. Don’t craft this.
Heading into Shadowlands, Balance appears to be a top performing spec in nearly all situations. Here are some of the spec’s strengths and weaknesses.
Single Target Damage
While not the very best at it, Balance single target should not be overlooked. If I had to give it a seemingly random placing on a tier list though, it would definitely be “A” tier. It was looking rough for a while, but as we get closer to Shadowlands release most outlier specs have been nerfed down to a reasonable level, which leaves Balance in a fantastic spot relative to the rest.
Priority Target/Target Swapping
Balance of All Things augments the already strong ability of Balance to pool Astral Power and unload Starsurges on a priority target. Now you can also line up a new Eclipse and have even stronger burst potential on priority targets, or damage amplification boss phases.
While not very relevant in a raid environment, several dungeons have high target count pulls you can do when grouped with a class such as Moonkin. Starfall is strong, Starfire cleave is strong, Sunfire cleaves, and they all have no target cap. In situations where you fight around 5 mobs the target capped classes such as Rogue, Paladin, and Hunter excel but once you exceed this limit Moonkin is a top performer.
No other class is competitive with Balance when it comes to hitting targets that are spread apart. Starfall is much improved compared to BFA and has a huge 40 yard radius centered on yourself, meaning you are rarely out of range of any mobs in any given encounter.
Balance is truly overloaded with utility; Stampeding Roar, Innervate, Typhoon are all available baseline. Ursol’s Vortex, Mighty Bash, and Mass Entanglement are all available through talents. Even Cyclone exists to make the target immune to prevent Bolstering in a dungeon, or even just for fun to troll your friends. Most of this translates to raids as well. Stampeding Roar is probably the most useful utility made re-available to the spec from a raiding perspective, allowing your entire raid to quickly re-position or to avoid a mechanic.
This may come as a surprise after reading it as a strength, but there are downsides to uncapped AOE too. Namely, the vast majority of raid encounters and dungeon pulls will not exceed the average target cap of 5 (although some classes have abilities capped as high as 8). What this means is in order to properly balance the game, classes like Moonkin who don’t have target caps can and arguably should do less damage at 5 targets than those who are capped. That is to say, if a Rogue and Moonkin are both attacking 5 targets, the Rogue should do more damage because every additional target added is something they can not hit. It feels pretty bad to be on that side of things.
While this is a matter of opinion, I see a lot of people complain that the rotation is “stale” or “boring” because of its relatively fixed nature. Enter Eclipse, cast 3 Starsurges, continue casting either Wrath or Starfire for the duration of the Eclipse, repeat with the next Eclipse over and over. I don’t personally have a problem with it as long as Balance is strong and competitive, and I would argue most classes don’t have much more going on than Balance does. What it does lack is meaningful interactions with its stats and dots. Moonkin gets increased crit rate on Starfire through Lunar Eclipse, and has a strong legendary power in Balance of All Things that boosts crit rate of spells, yet our spells have no special interactions with crit itself, which makes little sense when you think about it. Dots don’t do much other than a small interaction with Shooting Stars, and on large aoe pulls you ignore casting Moonfire on each individual mob in favor of simply spamming Starfire in order to benefit from its cleave damage. Admittedly as a supposed dot specialization this doesn’t feel great. But overall I feel Balance is looking strong for the first season of Shadowlands.