I have played this build into the low 40s on Darrowshire (Elysium), before that server imploded, and had a lot of fun with it. Perhaps the most enjoyable moment for me during that time was receiving a random invite to help a group finish running Scarlet Monastery Cathedral after they lost their tank. The other 4 members of the group wanted to finish the run and they saw that my Druid was over 40 (I think I was out in Dustwallow Marsh at the time fishing up Floating Wreckage off the coast) and without asking me for my spec the party lead asked if I could come and tank for them. I said yes, but it would take me a little while to get to them since I was a continent away at the time ... and was told that was fine, they'd try to make a little progress on their own while waiting for me to arrive (at least I had a mount). So I mount up, boat over, travel form, fly to Southshore, mount up again to ride north, take the shortcut across the lake southwest of Undercity, mount up again and ride all the way up to the Scarlet Monastery, Prowl in and unlock the door to the Cathedral to enter the instance.
The party had gotten to about the end of the hall for the courtyard on their own before I reached them with my Night Elf Druid. A minor cheer arose at my arrival, now that they would have a tank and they asked me if I was ready to tank for them. I said yes I was … and shifted into Moonkin form.
After about half a minute of staring at what I'd just done, someone got up the nerve to ask, "Aren't you Feral spec?" … to which I replied, "Obviously not."
I figure there was some private discussion outside of the party channel (so I wouldn't hear) as to whether or not they wanted to try and continue the run with a Moonkin (of all things!) tanking for them. Apparently they agreed to try letting me tank for them, and it was kind of obvious that they were all reluctant, but they were basically out of options (no one else had responded to their calls for help apparently). So I gave them a quick briefing to let them know how I was going to be pulling everything, wound up and let fly with the Starfires, Wrath and Moonfire to pull mobs onto my Moonkin where we'd be fighting on OUR ground (that had been cleared) rather than on the enemy's turf. Once range closed to melee, everyone else dove in and supplied the beatdowns.
After we cleared the lower courtyard to the stairs, I asked how everyone was doing and got a chorus of replies that everyone was doing fine and to just keep doing what I was doing. We worked our way up the stairs and I started pulling apart the upper courtyard to the Cathedral doors with no problems. We got the doors open, I told everyone to wait at the bottom of the stairs where I'd be pulling everything to for a while and started the DISassembly line for the contents of the Cathedral, doing ranged pulls with my spells. By now, I was starting to hear some amused ribbing about my tanking making it "too easy" for everyone else in the party, partly because our medic was never running out of mana or in danger of running out of mana. I was grabbing and holding ALL of the aggro and pulling ones and twos at a time which everyone else made quick work of with little stress, so everyone was feeling really confident.
So I cleared the front half of the Cathedral and had everyone move up to the top of the steps and kept pulling everything apart methodically and systematically and the whole party was grooving to the pace I was setting and my style of tanking. I asked our medic if everything was okay for them on the support side of things and they said they'd never had an easier time of it because the only one who needed healing most of the time was my Druid, and that was easy enough to manage since I kept all the aggro on me (aside from like 3 mobs the entire run, which got dealt with when they leaked).
After that, it was kind of a foregone conclusion how everything would end, since I'd basically gotten the team "trained" to exploit my tanking tactics. We capped the bosses with remarkably little trouble and at the end everyone was saying how that run through the Cathedral was the EASIEST they'd ever been on thanks to my Moonkin tanking for everyone and basically pulling EVERYTHING so that everyone could fight with a maximal margin of safety. Everyone else was kind of astonished at how well my Moonkin had withstood acting as a main tank for the group and it had given them a new perspective on the possibilities of the spec I was playing that they'd never even considered before. To put it mildly, 4 skeptics had become 4 believers after seeing what I could do with my Moonkin acting as a spell casting main tank for their group.
Just wanted to share that anecdote before spelling out the build here.
So without the usual amount of preamble and hullabaloo, let's get on with it.
Level 60 Druid ( 38 / 0 / 13 )
- Balance (38 points)
- Improved Wrath - Rank 5/5
Reduces the cast time of your Wrath spell by 0.5 sec.
- Improved Moonfire - Rank 5/5
Increases the damage and critical strike chance of your Moonfire spell by 10%.
- Natural Weapons - Rank 5/5
Increases the damage you deal with physical attacks in all forms by 10%.
- Omen of Clarity - Rank 1/1
Imbues the Druid with natural energy. Each of the Druid's melee attacks has a chance of causing the caster to enter a Clearcasting state. The Clearcasting state reduces the Mana, Rage or Energy cost of your next damage or healing spell or offensive ability by 100%. Lasts 10 min.
- Nature's Reach - Rank 2/2
Increases the range of your Wrath, Entangling Roots, Faerie Fire, Moonfire, Starfire, and Hurricane spells by 20%.
- Vengeance - Rank 5/5
Increases the critical strike damage bonus of your Starfire, Moonfire, and Wrath spells by 100%.
- Improved Starfire - Rank 5/5
Reduces the cast time of Starfire by 0.5 sec and has a 15% chance to stun the target for 3 sec.
- Nature's Grace - Rank 1/1
All spell criticals grace you with a blessing of nature, reducing the casting time of your next spell by 0.5 sec.
- Moonglow - Rank 3/3
Reduces the Mana cost of your Moonfire, Starfire, Wrath, Healing Touch, Regrowth and Rejuvenation spells by 9%.
- Moonfury - Rank 5/5
Increases the damage done by your Starfire, Moonfire and Wrath spells by 10%.
- Moonkin Form - Rank 1/1
Transforms the Druid into Moonkin Form. While in this form the armor contribution from items is increased by 360% and all party members within 30 yards have their spell critical chance increased by 3%. The Moonkin can only cast Balance spells while shapeshifted.
The act of shapeshifting frees the caster of Polymorph and Movement Impairing effects.
- Improved Wrath - Rank 5/5
- Feral Combat (0 points)
- Restoration (13 points)
- Improved Mark of the Wild - Rank 5/5
Increases the effects of your Mark of the Wild and Gift of the Wild spells by 35%.
- Nature's Focus - Rank 5/5
Gives you a 70% chance to avoid interruption caused by damage while casting the Healing Touch, Regrowth and Tranquility spells.
- Reflection - Rank 3/3
Allows 15% of your Mana regeneration to continue while casting.
- Improved Mark of the Wild - Rank 5/5
The first objective of this build is to reach Moonkin form by Level 40, meaning that the first 31 talent points are obliged to be spent in Balance. Since I plan to spend 38 talent points in Balance, that means that there's some flexibility in how to get there, but all roads need to lead to Moonkin form at Level 40 as far as I'm concerned.
To my mind, the choice between Improved Wrath and (Improved) Nature's Grasp is something of a false choice when it comes to PvE (and PvP is different, of course). I've tried Nature's Grasp in PvE and it's just really lackluster unless you configure your entire engagement strategy around using it. For me, the way that I play means that I'll get more mileage out of Improved Wrath instead, so I invest there to get past tier 1 in Balance.
Since the investment plan for tier 3 doesn't amount to a full 5 talent points, some mix of talents in tier 2 is somewhat inevitable. Whichever path you choose, you'll want to spend either 5/5 in Improved Moonfire and/or 5/5 in Natural Weapons so as to unlock Vengeance and/or Omen of Clarity, respectively. Given how much time you spend swinging your melee weapon while leveling, I consider Natural Weapons and Omen of Clarity to provide the greater return on investment in the early going, rather than reaching for Improved Moonfire and Vengeance.
In tier 3, I consider Omen of Clarity to be somewhat "mandatory" as an investment, but Nature's Reach is quite optional until later while leveling.
At tier 4, the question of Vengeance and/or Improved Starfire needs to be made, and which is your preference ought to be a personal decision since they both have their merits.
Tier 5 is Nature's Grace and Moonglow, both of which are "mandatory" investments. Of the two, I would pick up 3/3 Moonglow first and 1/1 Nature's Grace second. Nature's Grace in combination with Vengeance is what supercharges a Balance Druid's spell damage over time potential.
For tier 6, Moonfury is also mandatory, for what ought to be obvious reasons.
At Level 40 you spend 1 talent point in Moonkin form.
After picking up Moonkin form, the next 13 talent points ought to be spent in Restoration so as to get to Reflection, which is needed to help offset the mana costs of your spell casting over time. In the context of a Moonkin build, Furor is useless to you since you'll be using Moonkin form to fight in, not (Dire) Bear or Cat forms. The choice between Improved Healing Touch and Nature's Focus really comes down to a matter of personal preference, especially since you can't cast Restoration spells while in Moonkin form. The way I think about it is that if I'm in Moonkin form and need to switch out in order to heal, if the fight is still happening I'm probably taking damage and will want to avoid spell pushback more than I'd be worried about completing the casting of Healing Touch in 0.5s faster. The reason for investing in Reflection ought to be obvious enough that I shouldn't need to belabor the point for a Moonkin.
Once you've spent 31 talents in Balance and the next 13 talents in Restoration, you can then backfill the remaining 7 talent points into Balance that had been skipped over earlier in order to reach Moonkin form as quickly as possible. Note that this means that there are "loose change" options for choosing a different path through the Balance tree to reach Moonkin form if you are so inclined and have different personal preferences to mine.
As for spell casting as a Moonkin, or even as a Balance Druid in general, you simply won't have the same kinds of opportunities for generating mana from spirit while continuously casting that Mages, Priests and Warlocks can accomplish due to the lack of a repeatable channeled spell for you to use. This then means that if you're continuously casting as a Druid, you'll never get out from under the 5 Second Rule of Spellcasting until going Out of Mana (hence, the OOMkin epithet).
However, if you're NOT continuously casting spells, that calculus changes … and this is where thwacking away in melee between spells with the Natural Weapons and Omen of Clarity talent come into play for being able to recover mana from Spirit while in combat. The trick is that you deliberately don't try to cast continuously, but rather do a cast/melee/cast/melee rotation using Starfire for its long casting time (3.0s to 3.5s untalented).
If you yourself do not have aggro, then you can Starfire/melee hit/repeat as a way to get out from under the 5 Second Rule of Spellcasting so as to recover some mana from Spirit while mixing cast+melee in your attack rotation. Ideally speaking, you'll want to use a 3.00 weapon speed (or slower) so as to have at least 6s between times that you cast Starfire, allowing you to recover at least 1 mana tick from Spirit each rotation while in melee range. Note that this kind of spell/melee/spell/melee rotation then maximizes your opportunities to proc Omen of Clarity, which will then make your next damage or healing (but not shapeshifting!) spell cost zero mana to cast. When a spell costs zero mana to cast, it does not invoke the 5 Second Rule of Spellcasting, meaning that you not only don't lose the mana it would have otherwise cost to cast the spell, but you also gain the mana from Spirit recovery that would have otherwise been lost to the 5 Second Rule debuff effect. In this way, blending together spell casting with melee hits CAN (potentially) allow a Balance Druid in melee to drain their mana pool while attacking MUCH more slowly and take a lot longer to reach Out of Mana status … however, that requires some measure of discipline from the Player to achieve (yeah right, like that will ever happen!). Point is that it's possible to do, although given the way that most people play it rarely winds up happening in practice. However, once you know it's possible to do, sometimes people can be convinced to change their habits and strategies, so … The More You Know™ … and all that.
And that's basically the way I plan to build (and play) my Moonkin Druid that I'm leveling here on Turtle WoW.